Type: Bacterial

Geography: Southeast Asia, Africa, Western Pacific

Cases Per Year: 10 million

Fatality Rate: 15%

First Discovered: 1839 by J.L. Schönlein in Germany


Tuberculosis affects the lungs and is spread through the air when people with lung TB cough, sneeze, or spit. Tuberculosis is one of the  10 leading causes of death. Most people who become infected with TB live in low- and middle-income countries. About one-quarter of the world’s population has latent TB – they have been infected with the bacteria but are not yet ill with the disease and cannot transmit it. Of the people with latent TB bacteria, 5 to 15% will fall ill, most often those with compromised immune systems or who use tobacco. People with HIV are 19 times more likely to develop active TB, and almost all HIV-positive TB patients die from the disease.

Symptoms of an active TB disease include cough (sometimes with sputum and blood), fever, night sweats, chest pain, and weight loss. The symptoms can be mild for many months, leading to delays in seeking care and transmission of the disease to others.

TB occurs in every part of the world, with the largest number of new cases in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Western Pacific. Tuberculosis is treatable and curable.

Photo: Mycobacterium tuberculosis – Electron micrograph.