India accounts for highest number of TB cases in the world in 2022: WHO

A recent WHO report reveals that India has 27% of the global TB burden, at 28.2 lakh cases

Representative image of patients in India using oxygen masks in a hospital setting (photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint via Getty Images)
Representative image of patients in India using oxygen masks in a hospital setting (photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint via Getty Images)

Ashlin Mathew

India accounts for the highest number of tuberculosis (TB) cases in the world in 2022, with 27 per cent of all cases globally, states the new World Health Organization (WHO) 2023 Global Tuberculosis Report — in a year that saw the highest number of cases ever since monitoring began in 1995.

There were 28.2 lakh cases in the country recorded in 2022. Of these, 12 per cent of patients (3.42 lakh people) died due to the disease.

According to the report, 30 countries accounted for 87 per cent of the world’s TB cases in 2022.

The other countries in the top eight were Indonesia (10%), China (7.1 %), the Philippines (7.0 %), Pakistan (5.7 %), Nigeria (4.5 %), Bangladesh (3.6 % ), and the Democratic Republic of Congo (3.0 %). Together with India, these countries accounted for two-thirds of the disease burden globally.

The report states that multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) is key aspect of the problem, with 1.1 lakh cases recorded in India in 2022. Three countries accounted for 42 per cent of the estimated global number of people who developed MDR/RR-TB in 2022: India (27%), the Philippines (7.5%) and the Russian Federation (7.5%).

The report estimated that during the pandemic, the number of deaths among tuberculosis patients spiked because of Covid-19. Compared to pre-pandemic trends, around 60,000 more people died in India between 2020 and 2022 due to the disease.

Interestingly, according to the 2023 report, global estimates of the number of deaths caused by TB since 2010 have been revised downwards compared to the last report published in 2022. The 2023 report underscores that the main reason for this is revisions to estimates for India specifically, based on recently published cause-of-death data for 2014–2019.

'The updated estimates were extensively discussed with the ministry of health and family welfare in India and also informed by communications with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME),' stated WHO in its report.

More than 75 lakh people from 192 countries were diagnosed with TB in 2022, marking the highest figure recorded since WHO began monitoring the disease across the world in 1995. 'The number of people newly diagnosed with TB reached 7.5 million globally in 2022—the highest since monitoring began in 1995 and above the pre-covid baseline of 7.1 million in 2019,' the Report said.

In 2022, TB remained the second leading cause of death from an infectious disease, after Covid-19, and caused almost twice as many deaths as HIV/AIDS.

The global number of deaths officially classified as caused by TB in 2022 (1.13 million) was almost double the number caused by HIV/AIDS (0.63 million), and TB mortality has been much more severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic than HIV/AIDS patients were.

In 2022, 81 per cent of the global deaths caused by TB among HIV-negative people occurred in the African and South-East Asian regions; India alone accounted for 29 per cent of these deaths.

The African and South-East Asian regions also accounted for 81 per cent of the combined total number of deaths caused by TB among people with or without HIV; India accounted for 26 per cent of these deaths.

The Report acknowledged that global targets set for improvements in TB treatment, prevention and funding at the first UN high-level meeting on TB in 2018 have been missed. As a result, the global target for reduction in TB disease burden remains out of reach too.

The number of cases reported annually had dropped to 58 lakh in 2020 but was 64 lakh in 2021, even as health systems collapsed under the weight of the Covid-19 pandemic and prevented many with the disease from receiving a diagnosis or early treatment. The substantial increase in 2022 to 75 lakh shows that there has not been sufficient recovery in access to or provision of health services in several countries.

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