COVID-19 is no longer the world’s biggest infectious killer

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Tuberculosis is once again the planet's biggest infectious killer (Getty)

Tuberculosis has taken the place of COVID-19 as the world’s biggest infectious killer, a top expert has revealed.

More accurately, it has retaken its place, according to ​Mel Spigelman, president of the non-profit TB Alliance.

Spigelman said in an interview with AFP that COVID-19 had been reined in effectively, with vaccines, tests and treatments developed rapidly.

Spigelman said, “The juxtaposition with TB is pretty stark. It has regained the dubious distinction [of being the world’s biggest infectious killer].”

Tuberculosis kills 1.5 million people every year, working out at 4,109 a day.

COVID-19 is now killing 1,449 people a day, according to the Johns Hopkins University dashboard.

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Spigelman says that the pandemic hampered efforts to treat tuberculosis, with TB hospitals taken over for COVID care.

The number of annual TB deaths grew in 2020.

Spigelman said, ​"We went from what I honestly consider to be unbelievably slow progress, but at least progress, to a reversal.

​"It has been a major setback.

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In October 2021, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that the COVID-19 pandemic had severely impacted the progress made in fighting the TB pandemic.

In 2020, more than 40% of the estimated 9.9 million people who fell ill from TB were neither diagnosed nor treated.

Active TB must be treated with a combination of drugs; the most drug-sensitive forms of TB require at least four months of treatment using four anti-TB drugs.

An estimated 1.5 million people died of TB in 2020, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), although the precise numbers are not known and recent research suggests that TB could have killed many more people.

Drug-resistant TB develops when the long, complex, decades-old TB drug regimen is improperly administered, or when people contract TB from others who have drug-resistant disease.