TB bacteria
Mycobacterium tuberculosis is the causative agent for tuberculosis. BSIP/UIG/Getty Images

World Tuberculosis (TB) Day is recognised and celebrated annually on March 24 across the globe to bring awareness about the impact of the disease.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is estimated that TB is responsible for over 1.4 million deaths annually, making it one of the top ten causes of death in the world.

Some parts of the world with high rates of TB include African countries, South Asia (India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh), Russia, China, South America, Vietnam, Cambodia and Philippines.

What is tuberculosis?

TB is a highly infectious disease caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis that primarily affects the lungs. It can also attack other parts of the body such as the brain, kidney, and spine.

It is a preventable and curable disease that affects the lives of millions of people around the world. It particularly affects those living in poverty and vulnerable communities, where access to healthcare is limited, and poverty and malnutrition are prevalent.

Not everyone infected with TB bacteria becomes sick. However, TB can be fatal if a person does not receive proper treatment.

Stages and symptoms of tuberculosis

Tuberculosis consists of three stages which are:

  • Primary infection
  • Latent TB infection
  • Active TB disease

A person infected with the bacterium, but doesn't show any symptoms has inactive tuberculosis or latent tuberculosis infection (latent TB). Though it may seem like the infection is gone, it's dormant (sleeping) inside the body of the infected person.

While those with inactive TB do not exhibit symptoms, they can test positive for the disease.

If an infected person develops symptoms and is contagious, they are said to have active tuberculosis or tuberculosis disease (TB disease).

People with active TB can exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Persistent cough (lasting more than 3 weeks)
  • Pain in the chest
  • Coughing up blood or sputum (mucus)
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Night sweats

History of World Tuberculosis Day:

World Tuberculosis (TB) Day commemorates the anniversary of Dr Robert Koch's discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes tuberculosis (TB), in 1882.

Dr. Koch's ground-breaking discovery paved the path for the diagnosis and treatment of TB, a serious worldwide health issue that is still present today.

The first World TB Day was observed in 1982, on the 100th anniversary of Dr Koch's announcement. It is marketed to educate the public about the impact of TB around the world.

The day highlight the urgent need to end TB, which is a global pandemic and serves as a reminder that the disease continues to be a serious threat to global health.

Theme for World TB Day 2023

The theme for World TB Day in 2023 is 'Yes! We can end TB!'. It aims to inspire hope and encourage global leaders to collaborate and take action to combat the epidemic.

This year's theme focuses on the opportunities to raise visibility and political commitment. It emphasises the need for increased investments, quicker uptake of new WHO recommendations, adoption of innovations, accelerated action, and multi-sectoral collaboration to end TB.

Significance of World TB Day

World TB Day is an annual event that gives an opportunity to increase awareness of the global burden of TB and the initiatives being taken to eradicate this illness.

The day reflects the strides made in the fight against TB and to reaffirm and renew the commitment to putting an end to this pandemic. It also serves as a reminder that TB is a health problem as well as a social issue as it is exacerbated by issues like poverty, hunger, and poor living conditions.

TB still presents a significant worldwide health concern despite the recent advancements. The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the global response to tuberculosis. The WHO has estimated that the pandemic could lead to an additional 1.4 million deaths by 2025.