The Coronavirus Slowed The Plan To End Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis research, diagnosis, and prevention were affected by the pandemic. The panorama in Latin America is worrying.

Hands holding a paper cutout of lungs

Photo: Freepik

LatinAmerican Post | Brandon Martínez Salazar

Listen to this article

Leer en español: El Coronavirus retrocedió el plan para dar fin a la tuberculosis

World Tuberculosis Day is a commemorative date that seeks to raise awareness about the consequences that this disease produces in society. According to the Pan American Health Organization , this day is held every March 24 to intensify efforts to eradicate the bacteria and the global epidemic that is still in force today.

Now , although tuberculosis was a disease that had practically been controlled, today's data worries all health organizations. Apparently, the coronavirus pandemic caused TB diagnoses to decrease and, therefore, deaths from this contagion to increase, after a decade of continuous declines in cases.

For Latin America the situation is also alarming, especially in those people who suffer from HIV.

What is tuberculosis?

For starters, tuberculosis is a bacterium that spreads through the air when a person who has been infected coughs or sneezes, just like the coronavirus or the flu. Although in most cases there are no symptoms, those who do suffer from them must go through a long procedure with antibiotics to eliminate the disease.

There is currently a vaccine to prevent tuberculosis, but it is still a bacterium so prevalent in humanity that it affects 33% of the world's population. So, it has become the first most contagious disease and the second cause of deaths worldwide due to infection. However, in the last decade, TB cases had been falling considerably, but due to the attention to COVID-19, the number of deaths from the bacteria has increased since 2020.

Why is March 24 commemorated?

On March 24, 1882, Dr. Robert Koch announced the discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis or Koch's bacillus (popularly known as tuberculosis) to the Berlin Physiological Society. It is one of the oldest and most evolutionary diseases in the world, whose existence is estimated between 15,000 and 20,000 years.

Thanks to this discovery, Koch became one of the most important founders of bacteriology. Twenty-three years later, he would receive the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his great contribution to science. For this reason, this date is symbolic in health organizations, as it recalls Koch's work in medicine and the important need to end one of the deadliest infections in human history.

"Let's invest in ending TB. Let's save lives," is the theme for World Tuberculosis Day this year, according to PAHO.

Worrying figures in Latin America

Worldwide, the number of people infected with TB rose to 9.9 million during the last two years, and deaths from this pathology reached 1.5 million. People with HIV were one of the most affected populations, with 214,000 deaths.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, the situation is complex because, according to PAHO data, it is evident that in 2020, 27,000 people died of tuberculosis in the region, of which 7,900 were patients diagnosed with HIV.

Now, the problem is that due to the pandemic, access to TB services in Latin America was affected. This means that of the 219,000 people who contracted the disease two years ago, only 197,000 reported having access to health care, while 96,000 patients were not diagnosed. On the other hand, in 2020 only 3,900 people managed to receive treatment against tuberculosis, 10% less than the previous year. Of these treated patients, 59% were able to overcome the disease.

Also read: Caring for Caregivers. The World on Alert for the Mental Health of Health Personnel

One of the essential concerns on the subject is the financing gaps that TB has suffered to end the epidemic. For diagnosis, treatment, and prevention, a goal of 13,000 million dollars per year had been established in the 2018-2020 period. This year that figure is 5,300 million, that is, it has been reduced to less than half. As for research, the goal in the same period of time was 2,000 million dollars, but by 2019 the decrease in that investment reached 901 million.

Finally, the lack of essential resources for TB services, research, and innovation have been the factors that, together with the COVID-19 health crisis, have set back strategies to eradicate the disease.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button