23 March 2022


Submitted by Kerry

By Jonathan Keytel – Head of Healthcare Transformation & Sustainability (Roche Diagnostics).

“World Tuberculosis (TB) Day takes place on 24 March. It is an annual event to raise awareness around the health, social and economic consequences of TB. The date commemorates Dr Robert Koch’s isolation of the bacterium that causes TB in 1882, which paved the way towards diagnosing and curing the disease. 1 TB is one of the most infectious and deadly diseases globally. In 2020 alone, 9 900 000 people were diagnosed with TB, and 1 500 000 deaths were recorded. The good news is that since 2000, global efforts to end TB have saved an estimated 66 000 000 lives. Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic hindered this progress, however, and 2020 saw an increase in cases for the first time in over a decade. 1

“Invest to End TB. Save Lives.”, the theme for World TB Day 2022, highlights the urgency for investment in the resources required to fight TB and the commitment needed from global leaders to help put an end to TB altogether. 1

The COVID-19 pandemic has halted the progress of the End TB campaign, and leaders need to do their part in ensuring equitable access, not only to prevention but to adequate diagnostics and care. Quite simply, the more investment there is, the more lives will be saved. 1 

What is Tuberculosis? 

Tuberculosis is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, a bacteria, and has its most profound effect on the lungs. Because it is airborne, it is highly infectious and spreads when people cough, sneeze or spit. To become infected, all someone must do is breathe in the infected air particles. 3  TB is preventable and curable, yet 10 million people fall ill with tuberculosis annually. It remains the world’s most infectious killer and is also the leading cause of death to those infected with HIV. 3

Low to middle-income countries account for 98% of TB infections. Although it is estimated that as much as 25% of the world’s population is infected with TB at any given time, only 5-15% will fall ill. However, an asymptomatic person is as infectious as one with symptoms. 4 

TB has been prevalent for many years, and many of the antibiotics available are proving futile. The various strains have become drug resistant. Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) does not respond to isoniazid and rifampicin, the first-line anti-TB medication. There are limited second-line treatment drugs, but they also require extensive chemotherapy. 4

Symptoms of TB

The most common symptoms of TB include a persistent cough that can bring up mucus and blood. Other symptoms include fatigue, night sweats, fever, loss of appetite and weight loss. Symptoms can remain mild for several months, which often delays treatment. A rapid molecular diagnostic test should be done if these symptoms present, as they are highly accurate and lead to quick treatment. 4, 5 Drug-susceptible Tuberculosis can be treated with a course of antimicrobial drugs. 6

The African Burden

TB is the leading cause of death from a single infectious agent. 25% of all TB cases are in Africa, and so are 25% of all deaths. Africa’s HIV burden causes further complications, as those infected with HIV are 18 times more likely to develop TB. The conditions form a lethal paradox, both accelerating the development of the other. Eighty fiver percent of TB patients in Africa are also HIV positive. 7

The End TB Strategy

The WHO Global Tuberculosis Programme aims to lead and guide the global effort to end the TB epidemic once and for all. Ending TB is a developmental challenge as well as a public health issue. The WHO adopted the End TB Strategy in 2014, highlighting that the way forward requires universal access to patient-centred prevention and care, multisectoral action and innovation. 9

The WHO End TB Strategy serves as a road map, assisting nations to eliminate the catastrophic costs for TB-affected households by 2030. The goal is to reduce TB incidence by 80% and TB deaths by 90%. The strategy is tailored to each country’s diverse needs and contributing factors. 9

Roche plays a significant role in the fight against TB through our Global Access Programme, which focuses on sustainable solutions that can help diagnose infections and save lives. The Global Access Programme supports the End TB Strategy by expanding access to diagnostics in high-burden countries.

Ultimately, all humans should have access to high-quality diagnostics through meaningful partnerships – both public and private. Reliable and accurate diagnosis reduces the risk of further transmission, delays in treatment and additional burdens on the healthcare system.” 10


1. https://www. who. int/campaigns/world-tb-day/2022

2. https://www. medicaldevice-network. com/news/who-roche-tuberculosis-tests/

3. https://www. who. int/health-topics/tuberculosis#tab=tab_1

4. https://www. who. int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/tuberculosis

5. https://www. nhs. uk/conditions/tuberculosis-tb/

6. https://www. who. int/health-topics/tuberculosis#tab=tab_3

7. https://africacdc. org/disease/tuberculosis/

8. https://diagnostics. roche. com/global/en/article-listing/global-access-program-tb. html

9. https://www. who. int/teams/global-tuberculosis-programme/the-end-tb-strategy

10. https://diagnostics.roche.com/global/en/article-listing/global-access-program-tb.html

Published in Health and Medicine