More than two billion people, or a third of the world's total population, are infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria that causes tuberculosis (TB).
Tuberculosis is the world's seventh-leading cause of death. It killed 1.8
million people worldwide last year, up from 1.77 million in 2007. It is one
of three primary diseases that are closely linked to poverty, the other two
being Aids and malaria.
Some facts about tuberculosis:
* It is spread easily through the air. When infectious people cough, sneeze, talk or spit, they expel the bacteria. Just a small amount is enough for transmission. Someone in the world is newly infected with TB every second.
* Nearly all TB infections are latent, with carriers showing no symptoms and they are not infectious. However, one in 10 will become sick with active TB in his or her lifetime due primarily to a weakened immune system.
* Of the 1.8 million deaths in 2008, or 4,930 deaths a day, half a million were Aids patients. TB affects mostly young adults in their most productive years. The vast majority of TB deaths are in the developing world. More than half occur in Asia.
* The World Health Organization estimates that 9.4 million people developed active TB in 2008, up from 9.27 million in 2007 and 9.24 million in 2006. Among the 15 countries with the highest TB incidence rates in 2007, 13 were in Africa, while half of all new cases were in six Asian countries - Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and the Philippines.
* TB is the seventh-highest cause of mortality in poor countries.
* The average TB patient loses three to four months of work and up to 30 per cent of yearly household earnings. The World Bank estimates that the disease diminishes 4 per cent to 7 per cent of GDP in some of the worst-affected countries.
* Drug-resistant TB is caused by inconsistent or partial treatment often because patients stop taking their medication because they start to feel better.
* A particularly dangerous form of TB is multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB), which is TB that resists at least isoniazid and rifampicin, the two most powerful anti-TB drugs.
* Rates of MDR-TB are high in some countries, especially in India, China and the former Soviet Union, and threaten TB control efforts. MDR-TB is present in virtually all countries surveyed by the World Health Organisation.
* Extensively drug-resistant TB, or XDR-TB, is a relatively rare type of TB. Between 35 per cent and 50 per cent of patients with this form of TB die.
Sources: WHO, US Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, The Lancet series on Health System Reform in China, 2009.