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Addressing TB rates in the UK

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Contrary to popular belief, tuberculosis (TB) has never been eradicated, even in higher income countries, nor is there any prospect of achieving this in the foreseeable future.1 The harsh reality is that TB remains the biggest killer in the world as a single pathogen.2 Despite international efforts to control TB, the WHO estimates there were 8.8 million cases of TB cases causing 1.2 million deaths globally in 2010.3

While TB mortality in the UK is relatively low, latest Health Protection Agency figures show that in 2011 there were 8,963 reported cases giving a national rate of 14.4 per 100,000 population. The majority of cases were reported in London (39 per cent), the West Midlands (11 per cent) and other major urban conurbations.4


Caused by the bacterium mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB), the organism is primarily transmitted via the airborne route through the inhalation of infected droplets.5 TB transmission usually requires close and prolonged contact in the same airspace with another individual who is sputum smear positive, that is, have the TB bacilli identified in their sputum when it is viewed under the microscope.6

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