Caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis
, tuberculosis is a chronic disease that usually attacks the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body such as the brain, intestines, kidneys, or even the spine. Since its discovery in 1882, tuberculosis has caused many illnesses and taken countless lives on a global scale; in fact, it was the first infectious disease to be declared by the World Health Organization as a global health emergency
back in 1993. Today, tuberculosis remains a threat
, as new cases continue to be reported throughout the United States and around the world.
“The disease can strike a heavy physical, emotional, and financial blow to people and families affected,” Philip LoBue, MD, director of the Division of Tuberculosis Elimination, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, CDC, said in a statement on 2017 World TB Day.
Because of these devastating effects, researchers have come up with an approach to accelerate progress towards TB elimination. Dr. LoBue explained, “Analyses suggest that eliminating TB will require a dual approach: strengthening existing TB programs/systems to diagnose
active TB disease, and intensifying efforts to identify and treat latent TB infections among those who are infected with TB bacteria but are not yet sick.”
When it comes to current efforts for infection control, the big focus has been on the quick identification and treatment of those with active TB disease, to prevent further transmission from person-to-person. In addition, researchers have focused on identifying anyone who may have been exposed to infected individuals in order to prevent “a resurgence of TB.” These efforts are not for naught; according to Dr. LoBue, “Over the last 20 years alone, health departments and the CDC TB control efforts have prevented as many as 300,000 people from developing TB disease, saving more than $6 billion in costs.”