Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the world’s most deadly infectious diseases. In 2016, there were 10.4 million new TB cases and 1.7 million deaths – making it the ninth leading cause of death worldwide.
TB flourishes in crowded living spaces with poor sanitation and ventilation – like you might find in a camp for displaced people. TB is spread from person to person through coughing and sneezing. One person with active, untreated TB can spread the disease to as many as 15 other people in a year.
Standard “drug-susceptible” TB requires taking four antimicrobial drugs every day for at least six months. Often, patients start to feel better before finishing treatment and stop taking their medication. A person who is forced to flee their home may also find it impossible to finish their treatment. This can lead to drug resistance, because the tuberculosis bacteria hasn’t been wiped out. Drug-resistant TB is curable. But the second-line drugs are more toxic and require up to two years of treatment. Diagnosing and keeping patients on treatment is essential to winning the fight against TB.