New Childhood TB Estimates Double the Number Previously Thought

Researchers from BWH and Harvard Medical School have estimated that around one million children suffer from tuberculosis (TB) annually— twice the number previously thought to have tuberculosis and three times the number that are diagnosed every year.

The researchers also estimated that around 32,000 children suffer from multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) annually. These findings were published in The Lancet on March 23, 2014.

“Despite children comprising approximately one quarter of the world’s population, there have been no previous estimates of how many suffer from MDR-TB disease,” explained Ted Cohen, MD, DrPH, HMS associate professor of Medicine in BWH’s Division of Global Health Equity and co-senior author of this study. “Our estimate of the total number of new cases of childhood TB is twice that estimated by the WHO in 2011 and three times the number of child TB cases notified globally each year.”

These findings underscore the urgent need for expanded investment in the global response to TB and MDR-TB in children.

“Our findings demonstrate that there is a need for improved methods for collecting data on childhood TB. A good starting place would be improved diagnostic methods for children and more systematic collection of information on how many children are suffering with this disease,” explained Helen Jenkins, PhD, HMS instructor in BWH’s Division of Global Health Equity and lead statistician on the project.

Read more about the study in this article by Fox News.

North Korea's Other Crisis

KJ Seung
K.J. Seung

“There's a crisis brewing in North Korea that has nothing to do with nuclear weapons or six-party talks. Tuberculosis has long been recognized as one of the biggest public health problems in North Korea, but there is a disturbing new development: much of the TB in North Korea is resistant to regular antibiotics.”

This is the introduction to a compelling new piece in The Atlantic by K.J. Seung, MD, a physician in BWH's Division of Global Health Equity and deputy director for the Partners In Health project in Lesotho, who regularly travels to North Korea.

Read the article to learn why he believes that multi-drug resistant TB is basically a death sentence for patients in North Korea.