Epidemiology: A mortal foe

Tuberculosis is one of the world's most lethal infectious diseases. Further progress in consigning it to the past is a massive challenge. By Tom Paulson.

Global burden of tuberculosis

In 2011, nearly 9 million people fell ill from TB and 1.4 million died, mostly in poor countries, with 60% of cases in Asia and 24% in Africa (Fig. 1).

Figure 1
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WORLD TUBERCULOSIS REPORT 2012

The biggest killer

Tuberculosis has killed more than any other infectious disease in history. Over a billion lives in the past two hundred years (Fig. 2).

Figure 2
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WORLD TUBERCULOSIS REPORT 2012

The 100 years battle

Rising living standards in industrialized nations, interrupted by two World wars, and new antibiotics had tuberculosis in decline (Fig. 3).

Figure 3
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LIENHARDT, C. ET AL. NATURE REVIEWS MICROBIOLOGY 10, 407-416 (2012)

Slow progress

Over the past fifteen years, an invigorated anti-TB effort has begun to reduce the global burden of disease worsened by HIV (Fig. 4).

Figure 4
figure4

WORLD TUBERCULOSIS REPORT 2012

The transmission cycle

Fig. 5

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Figure 5

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Paulson, T. Epidemiology: A mortal foe. Nature 502, S2–S3 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/502S2a

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