1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Tuberculosis is the world’s deadliest infectious disease

March 24, 2020

As the coronavirus death toll mounts, global health authorities are reminding that tuberculosis is deadliest infectious disease in the world. Over a million deaths are reported every year.

Mycobacterium Tuberculosis
Image: picture-alliance/BSIP/NIAID

Tuberculosis kills more people than any other infectious disease, according to information shared by the United Nations (UN) on Tuesday.

Around 1.5 million people died from the bacterial infection in 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported, bringing attention to World Tuberculosis Day on March 24.

Approximately 10 million people are infected with tuberculosis every year, the WHO said on its website. Only a small portion of global cases receive the necessary life-saving medicine.

Over 4,000 people die of tuberculosis every day.

Read more: Tuberculosis outbreak in Germany

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the current coronavirus pandemic demonstrates how vulnerable patients with lung conditions or weakened immune systems are to the new outbreak. Tuberculosis is a disease affecting primarily the lungs.

"For millions of people with tuberculosis, the coronavirus represents a significant danger because their lungs are already weakened by tuberculosis, their general health is low due poverty, and they don’t have access to adequate healthcare," Burkard Kömm, director of the agency German Leprosy and Tuberculosis Relief (DAHW) told German news agency EPD.

Read more: UN wins TB dispute with United States

In Asia and Africa, it is tuberculosis patients who are most likely to be killed by the coronavirus.

Tuberculosis can be cured if treated over six months with a cocktail of four different antibiotics, DAWH said. However, many patients end their treatment early or develop a resistance to the medication that complicates and prolongs treatment. A lack of medicine is a common reason why patients end their treatment early, DAWH said.

kp/rg (EPD, dpa)

In Good Shape – Infectious diseases

DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.