TB on the way out?

Doctor disinfects skin of patient before vaccination

Public Health England (PHE) has released new data that show that the number of people diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB) in England is at its lowest level since the 1990s, raising hope that the disease may soon be wiped out.

TB is an infectious disease that affects the lungs and can also affect other parts of the body, including the lymph nodes, bones and brain, leading to serious complications. Although it can be fatal if left untreated, it is, for the most part, curable with appropriate antibiotic treatment.

The new data show that following action from PHE, the National Health Service (NHS) and others, there was a 38-per-cent drop in new diagnoses from a peak in 2011 to 2017 (from 8,280 to 5,102), with a nine-per-cent fall in diagnoses between 2016 and 2017 alone.

In England, the incidence rate of the disease is now 9.2 per 100,000 population, which takes England to below the World Health Organization definition of a low incidence country (10 per 100,000 population) for the first time.

PHE has been key in reducing the rates of TB in the country, working with NHS England and other partner organisations to implement the ‘Collaborative Tuberculosis Strategy for England 2015 to 2020’, which includes raising awareness and tackling TB in underserved populations, implementing testing for latent TB in those arriving from countries with high rates of TB, and strengthening surveillance and monitoring.

“It is hugely encouraging to see a continued decline in TB in England which shows that the interventions we are putting in place are having an impact and will hopefully one day soon consign TB to the history books. While these new figures are positive, challenges still exist,” said Dr Sarah Anderson, Head of TB Strategy at Public Health England.

Steve Brine, Public Health Minister, said: “We’re committed to keeping people healthy, and the steep decline of TB rates in this country is a testament to our world-leading approach. We are also helping other countries to go further in the fight against TB, with funding and research.”