Tuberculosis, also known as “consumption” or “white plague,” is an airborne bacterial infection that usually attacks the lungs, but can also spread into almost all other organs. It affects mostly malnourished, physically debilitated or chronically ill people and is one of the world’s most common and deadly diseases.
However, the public understanding of tuberculosis, particularly in the Western world, has declined radically as a result of a significant decline in new cases. Nevertheless, the disease, “which only really affected our grandparents’ generation,” is still a long way from being eradicated. According to the WHO, billions of people are latent carriers of the bacteria and millions of people are newly infected each year – mostly in the developing countries.
In addition, another problem has arisen in the recent past as a result of the sloppy way in which treatment was administered. Through irregular or improper treatment of tuberculosis with inappropriate or inadequate antibiotics, resistant forms of TB have developed – some of them to the point that they are untreatable with currently available medications.
The worldwide growth in HIV prevalence further drives the spread as HIV patients are 37 times more susceptible to TB than healthy people. “TB is the child of poverty – as well as its parent and provider,” said Desmond Tutu. He describes the vicious circle of tuberculosis, where: 1) poverty, malnourishment and weakened immune system will trigger the disease, 2) impoverished people generally do not have the means for their TB to be treated on time, so the disease is spread to their family and friends and 3) TB mainly affects people of working age (usually the breadwinners of families) renders them unable to work, further driving these people into poverty and enabling the disease to spread.
But tuberculosis does not have to be fatal. It is completely curable. Furthermore, treatment of standard TB is inexpensive and generally offered free of charge by government institutions. Hence, with dedication and commitment we aim to contribute to the eradication of the disease in our lifetime. Read more about its ways of transmission in the next section.