Southeast Asia has the highest percentage of new TB cases

TB is a problem anywhere in the world. A quarter of the world’s population is thought to have been infected with tuberculosis bacteria, but the majority will not develop TB disease and some will clear the infection. Individuals infected with TB bacteria have a 5-10% lifetime risk of developing TB, and if one has a weakened immune system which includes those who use cigarettes, have diabetes, malnutrition, or HIV, chance of falling ill to TB is increased.

In 2021, the WHO South-East Asian Area saw the highest percentage of new TB cases (46%), followed by the WHO African Region (23%), and the WHO Western Pacific (18%).

In 2020, the 30 countries with a high TB burden accounted for 87% of new TB cases. More than two thirds of the world’s total came from eight nations: Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nigeria, China, the Philippines, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

What is TB and How is it Spread?

Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that is transmitted from person to person through the air. Although TB often affects the lungs, it can also harm other organs like the brain, kidneys, or spine. The bacteria are released into the air when a person with TB coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings. Depending on the environment, these bacteria can remain in the air for several hours. Those who breathe in air contaminated with these TB bacteria may get Latent TB infection.

Latent TB Infection vs. Active TB Disease

Latent TB InfectionActive TB Disease
TB bacteria are dormant (asleep). This phase can last for a very long time – even decades.TB bacteria are reproducing and spreading in your body, causing tissue damage.
You don’t look or feel sick. Your chest X-ray usually is normal.You usually feel sick. Typical symptoms include cough lasting more than 3 weeks, weight loss, night sweats, and fever. A chest X-ray and other tests are needed to diagnose TB disease.
You can’t spread TB to other people.If the TB bacteria are in your lungs or voice box, you may spread TB to other people by coughing, sneezing, talking, or singing.
Usually treated by taking one medicine for 9 months.Treated by taking three or four medicines for at least 6 months.

Many persons with latent TB infection never experience the symptoms of TB illness.  The only way to know if you have Latent TB Infection is via tuberculin skin test, or TB blood test. Some patients have inactive TB bacteria for the rest of their lives without developing any disease. However, in some individuals, particularly those with weakened immune systems, the bacteria become active, grow, and result to TB disease.

Common Symptoms of Active TB Disease

Coughing with sputum and blood at times, chest pains, weakness, weight loss, fever, and night sweats are all common signs of active lung TB.


Pulmonary TBIf you are determined to have active pulmonary TB, where your lungs are impacted and you have symptoms, you will be given a prescription for at least a 6-month course of a combination of antibiotics.
Extrapulmonary TBExtrapulmonary tuberculosis (TB that arises outside of the lungs) can be treated with the same antibiotic combination as pulmonary tuberculosis.
Multidrug-resistant TBDepending on the strain, multidrug-resistant TB necessitates a substantially longer course of antibiotics—between 9 and 24 months. Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis has a poorer prognosis than normal tuberculosis.
Latent TB InfectionTreatment is typically advised if you have latent TB and are under 65. Antibiotics used to treat TB, however, can harm the liver in older people.   The pros and cons of receiving treatment for latent TB will be discussed with you by your medical team if liver damage is a concern and you are between the ages of 35 and 65.   If latent TB is deemed to be treatment resistant, it may also not always be treated. If so, you might undergo routine monitoring to make sure the infection doesn’t become active.

Active TB, if left untreated, may lead to death.

Preventing the Spread of Infection

If you have pulmonary tuberculosis, you will be contagious for the first 2 to 3 weeks of treatment.

Important steps you must do while being treated are:

World Tuberculosis Day

World Tuberculosis Day is observed annually on March 24 to promote awareness of tuberculosis and efforts to stop the global epidemic, commemorating the day the bacteria that causes tuberculosis was discovered in 1882.


Fact Sheets | General | Tuberculosis: General Information | TB | CDC. (n.d.).,they%20do%20not%20get%20treatment.

Website, N. (2022, March 2). Treatment.

What is the Difference Between Latent TB Infection and Active TB Disease? – MN Dept. of Health. (n.d.).

World Health Organization: WHO. (2022, October 27). Tuberculosis.

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