1 million people undiagnosed, untreated for tuberculosis in 2020

A health worker attends to a TB patient in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Photo by: Victor Magdeyev / USAID / CC BY-ND

Nine countries representing 60% of the global tuberculosis burden have suffered significant declines in TB diagnosis and treatment in 2020, ranging from 16% to 41%, according to new data published by the Stop TB Partnership.

This poses a serious setback in efforts to end the disease in the selected countries, including Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa, Tajikistan, and Ukraine. Data from 23 countries reveals a 1 million drop in the number of people diagnosed and treated for TB in 2020, with these nine countries contributing significantly to the decline. 

“Twelve years of impressive gains in the fight against TB, including in reducing the number of people who were missing from TB care, have been tragically reversed by another virulent respiratory infection,” Lucica Ditiu, executive director of the Stop TB Partnership, said in a news release, referring to COVID-19.

There is also emerging data from India and South Africa that shows people with TB co-infected with COVID-19 have three times higher mortality, according to the news release.

Modeling analysis in 2020 already warned of TB backsliding to 2013 levels because of COVID-19. An estimated 1.8 million people could also die from TB in 2020 if there’s a decline of 25% to 50% in the number of people diagnosed and treated for the disease over a three-month period, based on modeling by the World Health Organization.

While more people died from COVID-19 in 2020 globally, deaths from TB remained higher in low- and middle-income countries. But with COVID-19 vaccines now being rolled out, it is anticipated that COVID-10 deaths will decrease while roughly 4,000 people will continue to die from TB on a daily basis, according to the Stop TB Partnership.

About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.