One year after the COVID-19 pandemic turned the world on its head, the Stop TB Partnership shared new data showing that nine of the countries with the most tuberculosis (TB) cases—representing 60% of the global TB burden—saw a drastic decline in diagnosis and treatment of TB infections in 2020, ranging from 16%-41% (with an average of 23%). The drop brought the overall number of people diagnosed and treated for TB in those countries to 2008 levels, a setback of 12 years.
“Twelve years of impressive gains in the fight against TB, including in reducing the number of people who were missing from TB care, have been tragically reversed by another virulent respiratory infection,” said Dr. Lucica Ditiu, Executive Director of the Stop TB Partnership. “In the process, we put the lives and livelihoods of millions of people in jeopardy. I hope that in 2021 we buckle up and we smartly address, at the same time, TB and COVID-19 as two airborne diseases with similar symptoms.”
In addition to the worldwide drop in TB diagnosis and treatment, data emerging from India and South Africa shows that people coinfected with TB and COVID-19 have three times higher mortality than people infected with TB alone. This makes contact tracing, case finding and bi-directional TB and COVID-19 testing essential.