The World Health Organisation has revealed that there has been a significant rise in Europe of the rate of infections of TB. The WHO reports that there is a worldwide pandemic, killing 1.7 million people each year with 440,000 new patients being diagnosed with the disease around the world.

TB is a bacterial infection spread through the inhaling of tiny drops of saliva from the cough or sneezes of an infected person. The disease mainly effects the lungs but can spread to other places of the body including bones and nervous system.

Multi-drug resistant and extensively drug-resistant form of TB has formed across the continent at an alarming rate and the World Health Organisation's European director has warned that complacency had allowed a resurgence of TB and failure to tackle it now would mean huge human and economic costs in the future.

"TB is an old disease that never went away, and now it is evolving with a vengeance," said Zsuzsanna Jakab, the WHO's Regional Director for Europe.

"The numbers are scary," Lucica Ditiu, executive secretary of the Stop TB Partnership told a news conference in London. "This is a very dramatic situation," the director said.

More people than ever are successfully treated for tuberculosis, one of the world's biggest killer diseases, but health experts are warning that drug-resistant forms of the contagious disease are spreading at an alarming rate.

Multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) is spreading in particular in China, India, the Russian Federation and South Africa and the WHO is now seeing a significant rise in Europe. The WHO reports that is takes longer to treat with different kind of drugs, known as second-line drugs, which are more expensive and have more side effects. If these drugs do not work, extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) can develop with limited chances of treatment and cure.

Three things can happen if you are infected with TB:

  • Your immune system (the body's natural defence against infection and illness) kills the bacteria and you have no further symptoms. This happens in most cases.
  • Your immune system cannot kill the bacteria, but manages to build a defensive barrier around the infection. This means that you will not have any symptoms, but the bacteria will remain in your body. This is known as latent TB.
  • Your immune system fails to kill or contain the infection and it slowly spreads to your lungs. This is known as active TB.

TB is more likely to take hold when your immune system is weakened. We should try to avoid stress, eat healthily and limit things such as cigarettes, drugs and alcohol. TB is an 'opportunistic infection', which means it is likely to take hold when your immune system is weakened through illness, stress or if personal circumstances mean you are unable to take as much care of yourself as you usually would.

Some of the best ways to help prevent TB are to do with how we look after ourselves and how we live. Where possible we should try and be well nourished, eating a variety of healthy foods, and protect our bodies by limiting the amount of harmful substances we consume, such as cigarettes, drugs and alcohol.

There is no proven natural cure for TB. Though good nutrition and a healthy way of life are helpful companions to the prescribed drugs program. There is evidence that people who are Vitamin D deficient are more vulnerable to developing infections. Taking vitamin D supplements with the recommended TB treatment programme can help boost the immune system, which aids in fighting illness. Speak to your consultant about supplements if you think you may have a vitamin deficiency.