World Tuberculosis (TB) Day 2021

Learn what CDC is doing in the United States and around the world to eliminate TB disease.

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March 24 is World Tuberculosis (TB) Day, a day to raise awareness about TB in the United States and around the world.

World TB Day is observed annually on March 24th to commemorate Dr. Robert Koch’s announcement of his discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacillus that causes tuberculosis (TB). World TB Day provides an opportunity to increase awareness about TB and the actions needed to find, treat, and prevent this potentially lethal disease. This World TB Day, CDC remains committed to this mission, even as the COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for communities, public health departments, and healthcare facilities in the United States and around the world.

Despite being preventable and treatable, TB remains the world’s leading infectious disease killerpdf icon, taking the lives of 1.4 million people in 2019 alone. Two billion people – one fourth of the world’s population – are infected with the TB bacteria, with more than 10 million becoming ill with active TB disease each year. In 2019, 1.2 million children fell ill with TB globally and 465,000 people fell ill with drug-resistant TB. TB knows no borders. It is present in all countries around the world and in all age groups.

Although the United States has reported record low cases, too many people still suffer from TB disease in this country. Up to 13 million people in the United States have latent TB infection, and without treatment, are at risk for developing TB disease in the future. CDC’s work in the United States supports a dual approach to find and treat active TB disease and test for and treat latent TB infection to prevent progression to disease. Expanded testing and treatment for latent TB infection, better diagnostics, and strong partnerships both domestic and global, are needed to turn TB elimination into a reality.

CDC is working to address active TB disease and latent TB infection in the United States.             

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As COVID-19 continues, CDC is supporting TB programs as they maintain essential TB services.

During this time of worldwide attention to the COVID-19 pandemic, many in the TB community are also engaged in pandemic response efforts, making this World TB Day unlike any other. TB professionals have critical skills and expertise needed for the COVID-19 response, including case investigation, contact tracing, infection control, and clinical care and treatment. A July 2020 report found that as personnel from U.S. state, local, and territorial TB programs were deployed to support their jurisdictions’ COVID-19 response, most TB programs experienced partial or high impact on staff capacity and TB services. As our response to COVID-19 continues, CDC is supporting TB programs as they maintain essential TB services, and encouraging healthcare providers to “Think TB”, especially for patients at higher risk of TB disease.

CDC is driving innovations and advancements in TB treatment and prevention to make TB elimination a reality. Preliminary results at scientific conferences in 2020 show promise for advances in treatment of TB disease. In October 2020, CDC, along with collaborators from the National Institute of Health’s AIDS Clinical Trials Group announced the results of Study 31/A5349, the first clinical trial to identify a shorter 4-month daily treatment regimen that is as effective as (non-inferior to) the existing 6-month daily regimen in curing drug-susceptible TB disease. This is the first new short treatment regimen for drug-susceptible TB disease in almost 40 years. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, CDC, and Columbia University also released the results of a two-year study showing that electronic directly observed therapy (eDOT) was at least as effective as traditional in-person DOT for ensuring high adherence to treatment while enabling patient-centered care for TB disease.

Many TB patients report feeling isolated and stigmatized through their treatment. Hearing experiences from TB survivors can be a helpful motivational tool that TB programs and health care providers can use to encourage patients to complete treatment for TB disease. CDC recently released new stories from TB survivors, as part of an ongoing series to help raise awareness about TB in the United States. CDC would like to thank We Are TB, The National TB Controllers Association, and state and local TB programs for their contributions to this project.

Looking ahead, CDC is engaging private and public primary healthcare providers who represent the front line in the fight against latent TB infection. CDC is working to make testing for latent TB infection a routine part of primary care for patients at higher risk of TB disease, encouraging healthcare providers to use newer TB blood tests to screen for latent TB infection and prescribe shorter treatments for latent TB infection to prevent the development of TB disease.

CDC is Working to Transform the Fight to End TB Around the Globe

Globally, CDC is on the frontlines in the world’s highest burden countries working with partners to reach global TB targets and to end the global TB epidemic by 2030. CDC is utilizing its unique combination of scientific leadership, peer-to-peer relationships with ministries of health, technical know-how and a solid track record in building sustainable TB and HIV programspdf icon, quality-assured diagnostic networks, and expertise in the strategic use of data to find, cure, and prevent TB globally.

Through sustained and collaborative efforts, we have made substantial progress in the fight against TB. Between 2000 and 2019, 60 million lives were saved, and TB deaths fell by 41%, which has advanced us towards the WHO End TB targetsexternal icon for decreased mortality, but likely not fast enough to reach global targets.  In addition, progress has been made towards commitments made at the 2018 United Nations High Level Meeting (UN HLM). pdf iconexternal icon Between 2018 and 2019, roughly 14 million people with TB disease received TB treatment globally. To achieve the UNHLM target of treating 40 million people by 2022, an additional 26 million people will need to be reached.

CDC is also spearheading efforts to address the historical gaps in the provision of life-saving TB preventive treatment external icon(TPT)external icon. TPT is a medication that has been shown to dramatically reduce TB disease and TB-associated death, particularly among vulnerable populations such as people living with HIV (PLHIV) and children. From 2018 to 2019, 6.3 million people received TPT, with approximately 5 million of those being PLHIV. To achieve the UN HLM TPT target by 2022, nearly 24 million additional persons (both children and adults) will need to be provided with TPT.

The public health platforms that CDC and partners have built, and the innovations that the global community has supported have not only improved country-level and global health care systems but have also demonstrated benefits beyond TB and HIV and are currently supporting the fight against COVID-19. However, global TB progress has also been challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic, which not only poses additional challenges to achieving the global TB targets but also threatens to reverse the gains made over the past several years.  In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global TB community is focused on supporting innovations and adaptations in TB diagnosis, care, and treatment to ensure continuity of TB services.

For example, CDC is working with host-country governments to ensure continuity of quality TB services by adopting and demonstrating innovative approaches with a focus on digital and mobile-health solutions and differentiated service delivery models for TB including multi-month drug dispensing and adoption of digital technologies for monitoring adherence and adverse events. CDC is collaborating with host-country governments to develop and adopt algorithms for dual screening and testing for TB and COVID-19 and linking COVID-19 and TB surveillance system to assess whether TB is a risk factor for severe COVID-19 disease or COVID-19 related deaths.

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CDC is driving innovations and advancements in TB treatment and prevention.

Photo Credit: Thom Pierce.

CDC is also capitalizing on and building upon its existing infection prevention and control (IPC) activities and capacities to enhance preparedness of health systems through strengthening IPC interventions and programs at PEPFAR-supported facilities in 5 countries: Ethiopia, Haiti, Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda. CDC, in collaboration with its implementing partners, is expanding and strengthening IPC training, mentoring, and monitoring and evaluation activities to prevent nosocomial transmission of infectious diseases including TB and COVID-19.

We are in a time of both unprecedented challenge and opportunity for TB. On this World TB Day 2021, CDC and partners are highlighting the urgency and importance of regaining the momentum we have lost because of the COVID-19 pandemic and renewing our commitments to accelerate progress towards ending the TB epidemic. Both the domestic and global TB communities are united on one front to fight TB at home and abroad.

Visit CDC’s Division of Tuberculosis Elimination and Division of Global HIV and TB for additional resources, testimonies from TB survivors, and success stories from domestic and global TB elimination champions.