Tuberculosis now joins AIDS/HIV as the disease which kills highest number of people
There have been many diseases on this planet that have killed millions like the bubonic plague in the middle ages which wiped out 80% of Europe’s population. After that recently, HIV/AIDS has been the prime killer of humans in Africa, Americas and most of the world.
But one more disease has slowly crept to the number 1 killer spot to join HIV/AIDS as the disease which kills highest number of people. This disease mainly affects the developing countries, but its virus can be easily carried to other parts of the world and people can get infected by it.
Here is some more information about this killer disease and how it affects and kills millions of people around the world.
1 What is tuberculosis?
The disease in question is known as tuberculosis which is more commonly known as TB.
It is a bacterial infection that spreads via the lymph nodes and the blood stream to any part of the body. But mostly the disease manifests itself in the lungs. The most disturbing part of the disease is that the bacteria that causes TB can remain inactive in the body, hence the person who gets exposed to TB may never develop symptoms immediately.
But if the person has a weakened immune system, for e.g. due to HIV/AIDS, the bacteria can turn active and the patient starts to shows symptoms. If left untreated, TB is fatal.
2 Cause of tuberculosis
Since the bacteria causing TB, known as Mycobacterium tuberculosis is spreadable through the air, TB is considered a contagious disease. The bacteria usually remains inactive after they have entered the body and possibly only a handful of people who get infected by the disease will have the active disease. Others have what is called the latent TB infection which shows no sign of infection and doesn’t spread to others, unless it becomes active.
HIV/AIDS causes the body’s immune system to become weak and as a result, it makes it hard for the body to control the TB bacteria in the body. Hence people who have both AIDS and TB are 20-30% more likely to develop the active version of TB. Tobacco also causes increase in the risk of developing active TB.
3 TB- the killer disease
Eric Goosby, the U.N. special representative on tuberculosis quoted that TB has killed 1.5 million people in 2014, including 400,000 HIV/AIDS patients who died of TB-related difficulties. In contrast, HIV/AIDS had killed 1.2 million people last year.
Though more than 1 million people die because of both the diseases seapartely, many scientists and health professionals who deal with TB related cases say that when it comes to resources that go in to fighting TB, the number is very less when compared to resources pooled in to fight HIV/AIDS.
A number suggests that in 2013, the global community invested an estimated $19.1 bn to combat HIV/AIDS; while in comparison only $5.3 bn were contributed towards dealing with TB. A report by WHO says that it would need $1.4 bn additional funds to fund the treatment for the global TB epidemic and another $1.3 bn for research and development to provide better drugs and vaccine.
Though the overall number of TB related deaths are declining, a new version of multi drug resistant TB has developed immunity to the 2 types of TB drugs. In 2014, 480,000 people contracted MDR-TB, also known as “airborne cancer.”
4 How does TB kills?
Tuberculosis generally affects the lungs in our body and this type of TB is known as pulmonary TB. This TB can be fatal if not treated. The TB bacteria spreads throughout the body using the blood stream. Effects of TB can be seen on other parts of the body as well.
TB can affect the spine and cause stiffness and back pain. Another complication is tuberculosis arthritis which affects the hips and knees. TB also causes swelling of the membrane covering the brain known as meningitis which can bring mental changes.
All this proves that TB needs lots of research and funding for it to be eradicated completely. Although TB has become the disease which kills highest number of people, along with HIV/AIDS, global efforts towards proper treatment and research for new drugs can lead to its eradication.