Tuberculosis needs more recognition as a worldwide health threat

Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria. infected person

THE World Health Organization (WHO) recently announced its first-ever list of the antibiotic-resistant superbugs that pose the greatest threat to human health.
Yet, somehow, tuberculosis (TB) — and the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacterium that causes it — was left off the list. TB is one of the deadliest diseases in human history. The M. tuberculosis bacteria that cause it can spread through the air when an infected person coughs. In its most common form, it causes fatigue, long-lasting coughing fits, weight loss, pain in the chest and night sweats. Those with HIV/AIDS or another disease prevalent in areas where TB is often found are particularly vulnerable to the opportunistic bacteria; TB is a leading cause of death for those with HIV/AIDS.
For many people around the world without access to the antibiotics that kill TB or to sufficient medical care to ensure they complete their lengthy treatments, TB is deadly. Here are four reasons TB should hold the No. 1 spot on the WHO’s list:
TB is the No. 1 infectious-disease killer on the planet, surpassing HIV/AIDS. TB causes roughly 2 million human deaths per year; it will have killed someone by the time you finish reading this article. It’s inexpensive to cure TB. Yet, we can’t manage to stamp it out. Meanwhile, when people start treatment and then stop because they have to move, or don’t understand the importance of finishing treatment, they can develop forms of TB that are resistant to the first line antibiotics that we have relied on for decades.
Drug-resistant TB is on the rise, and it’s deadly. The treatment regimen for people who have drug-resistant TB is brutal, the drugs result in significant side effects and we desperately need new lines of defense to battle these antibiotic-resistant strains.
Doctors continue to rely on 110-year-old skin tests to diagnose TB, because funding dedicated to finding easier, quicker and cheaper methods has stagnated. There is another way to test, with a blood test known as interferon-gamma release assays or IGRAs. But these tests require that blood be drawn and sent to the lab, and patients may be lost to follow-up or may expose more people in the meantime. Because TB has not been given a high enough priority in the public health world, research efforts to develop better ways to treat and prevent TB have been stymied.
TB should already be wiped off the planet, but we lack the political will and funding focus to deliver it a death blow. Instead, public health officials continue to make major missteps, like leaving it off of the WHO list of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, when it should be center stage.