Dr. Robert Koch, a German physician, was the first to discover the Tuberculosis bacteria. From his studies to his experiments, to written articles, he was able to pave the way for health officials around the world to look more closely at the disease. Tuberculosis, also called “TB,” is a bacterial disease commonly affecting the lungs. Bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis can not only attack the lungs but can also cause damage to other parts of the body.
There are two types of Tuberculosis, TB disease and latent TB infection. A person with active TB disease will experience symptoms and can spread the TB germs to others. A person with a latent TB infection will not show any symptoms and cannot spread TB germs to others.
So How Can TB Spread?
Tuberculosis is spread through the air from a person who has it. If an infected person coughs or spits, the disease can travel through the air, infecting other people. Symptoms of the disease include coughs with mucus and/or blood, loss of appetite, chest pains, and fever.
During the 19th century, Europe and America were seeing hundreds of thousands of deaths from TB. Many people thought that bed rest and plenty of fresh air would cure people of the disease. Unfortunately, this remedy was not so effective.
In 1920, clinical trials began with infected people taking a vaccine called Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG), created by French scientists Albert Calmette and Camille Guérin. Following this vaccine, new testing methods such as the Tuberculin skin test were used to combat the disease.
The spread of TB has been seen across the world with the South-East Asian region seeing the greatest number of new cases in 2018. India, China, Indonesia, Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, and South Africa represent many new Tuberculosis cases.
As of 2018, there were a total of 1.5 million people reported to have died from TB. Of those 1.5 million, approximately over 250,000 of them were also infected with HIV. A person with HIV is said to be approximately 19 times more likely to develop active TB.
Approximately 10 million people have been infected with TB, with more than half of them being men. TB cases and deaths have fallen approximately 2% each year. Through TB identification and treatment, approximately 60 million lives were saved between 2000 and 2018.
With the help of clinical trials, researchers and health officials can continue to look further into TB. The Tuberculosis Trials Consortium (TBTC) is a group of CDC researchers, healthcare workers (domestic, international, and academic), and selected Veterans Administration medical centers whose purpose is to expand the knowledge of the disease and help stop the spread while also continuing research. To date, the TBTC has conducted a total of 9 major clinical trial studies with 15 sub-trials.
World TB Day is now recognized every year on March 24th. The day is dedicated to spreading the knowledge of TB and its impact on the world. Health care officials are hopeful to end the TB epidemic by 2030.