Cases of ancient disease that makes people cough blood hit ‘highest on record’

A RECORD-breaking number of people were diagnosed with tuberculosis in 2022, health officials have said.

Some 7.5million people caught the ancient disease, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the highest since records began in 1995.

The ancient disease killed 1.3million people in 2022


The ancient disease killed 1.3million people in 2022Credit: Alamy

Although case numbers have increased, the UN organisation said it likely includes cases missed last year.

“The number in 2022 probably includes a sizeable backlog of people who developed TB in previous years but whose diagnosis and treatment were delayed by Covid-related disruptions that affected access to and provision of health services,” a WHO spokesperson told The Sun.

“A return to the pre-pandemic downward trend may occur in 2023 or 2024.”

Instead, the high figure signifies “worldwide recovery in the scale-up of TB diagnosis and treatment services” disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Read more on tuberculosis

“We should be positive about this ability to monitor the number of people being newly diagnosed with TB each year,” Dr Tereza Kasaeva, director of the WHO’s Global Tuberculosis Programme, explained.

“It allows us to understand the burden of TB disease as well as the number of people with TB who are accessing diagnosis and treatment,” he told the Telegraph.

Second most infectious bug in the world

TB is the second most infectious deadly disease in the world, after Covid.

In 2022, the ancient disease killed 1.3million people – down from 1.4million in 2021, according to the WHO report.

At its height in the 19th century, TB, known as the “white death”, was responsible for the deaths about a quarter of the adult population of Europe. Cities like London were among the worst areas affacted..

Figures have dropped dramatically and WHO says that there is some progress towards a TB vaccine, but this is limited due to a lack of investment.

The bacterial infection usually affects the lungs but can seep into other body parts, such as the brain, spinal cord and heart.

And it spreads through the air when infected people cough, sneeze or spit.

Symptoms include a cough for over three weeks, exhaustion, high temperature, weight loss, and loss of appetite.

Patients are usually given antibiotics for six months.

It kills 66 per cent of those left untreated.

In the UK, infections jumped to 2,408 in the first half of 2023, up from 2,251 last year.

The UK Health Security Agency said cases are still most common in people who have come from areas of the world where TB is more common.

Infections are higher in urban and more deprived areas, with homeless people more at risk, they said.

The 6 symptoms of TB to watch out for

TB is a potentially serious condition, but it can be cured if it’s treated with the right antibiotics.

  • a persistent cough that lasts more than three weeks and usually brings up phlegm, which may be bloody
  • breathlessness that gradually gets worse
  • lack of appetite and weight loss
  • a high temperature
  • night sweats
  • extreme tiredness or fatigue

Source: NHS

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