Factbox: Tuberculosis: A worldwide pandemic

LONDON (Reuters) - The World Health Organization (WHO) gave its backing on Wednesday to a new molecular test for tuberculosis made by Cepheid which can rapidly diagnose TB, one of the world’s biggest killer diseases.

Here are some facts about tuberculosis.

* Tuberculosis (TB) is contagious and spreads through the air. If not treated, each person with active TB can infect on average 10 to 15 people a year.

* TB is a worldwide pandemic. Among the 15 countries with the highest estimated TB incidence rates, 13 are in Africa, while a third of all new cases are in India and China.

* More than two billion people, or one third of the world’s total population, are infected with TB bacilli, the microbes that cause TB. One in every 10 of those people will become sick with active TB in his or her lifetime.

* People who have the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS are at a much greater risk of developing TB because their immune systems are weakened.

* A total of 1.7 million people died from TB in 2009, including 380,000 people with HIV. This is equal to about 4,700 deaths a day.

* TB is a disease of poverty, affecting mostly young adults in their most productive years. The vast majority of TB deaths are in the developing world, and more than half occur in Asia.

* There were 9.4 million new TB cases in 2009, of which 80 percent were concentrated in 22 countries. Per capita, the global TB incidence rate is falling, but the rate of decline is very slow.

* Multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) is a form of TB that does not respond to the standard treatments using first-line drugs. MDR-TB is present in virtually all countries surveyed by WHO.

* There were an estimated 440 000 new MDR-TB cases in 2008, with three countries -- China, India and Russia -- accounting for more than 50 percent of all cases globally.

* Extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) occurs when resistance to second-line drugs develops. It is extremely difficult to treat and cases have been confirmed in more than 58 countries.


Compiled by Kate Kelland