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Tackling Tuberculosis, a Leading Cause of Death

Leading Cause of Death
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that one-third of the global population has latent tuberculosis. Though a vaccine exists for this fast-spreading virus, tuberculosis is a leading cause of death in the world.

While some may think of tuberculosis, formerly known as consumption, as a virus of the past, it has begun to reemerge and create public health crises in multiple countries. The evasive nature of the virus has resulted in its continued spread. Additionally, many underlying factors contribute to the continuation of this illness.

Immigration and Movement of People Between Countries

Despite the efforts of many countries, the complete eradication of tuberculosis is near impossible due to the influx of immigrants leaving and entering endemic countries. The CDC claims that without proper treatment and health services for all immigrants, this disease will continue to spread. Containing and quarantining the infected would be of little use since only 10% of tuberculosis carriers present outward signs.

How it Compliments Other Epidemics

The destructive manner in which tuberculosis attacks the respiratory system creates an even deadlier combination when paired with another disease. For example, the United States experienced a spike in both tuberculosis and HIV cases around the same time, due to the nature of both diseases. With a weakened immune system, HIV patients struggled to fight the disease on their own, leading to the re-emergence of tuberculosis.

Poor Government Structures and Funding to Facilitate Care

As the COVID-19 pandemic made evident, many governments are poorly equipped to facilitate proper care to combat TB epidemics. However, movements to eradicate it have resulted in mandatory testing for nearly all hospitals and universities. While developed countries have made large strides in the positive direction, the lack of governmental structure and resources in poverty-stricken countries allows tuberculosis as a leading cause of death.

Vaccine Resistant Strains

As with any virus, TB has evolved to include many vaccine-resistant strains. These strains stand in the way of eradication. Furthermore, the CDC has discussed the threat this strain poses if used as a bioweapon. WHO has set a goal of wiping out tuberculosis by 2035, but without a method of controlling or stopping vaccine-resistant strains, this goal is challenging.

NGOs Working to Address Tuberculosis

The Global Fund, WHO and USAID are all working to address tuberculosis, the leading cause of death, through new health technologies. These organizations use technologies to monitor antibiotic administration, side effects and maintain patient charts on a virtual platform. This virtual platform allows healthcare workers to navigate data conveniently. Some platforms use safety precautions to eliminate issues of miscommunication and over-administration of medications.

– Venus Wang
Photo: Flickr