Newswise — (March 24, 2020) – In support of World TB Day, March 24, the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS), of which the American Thoracic Society is a founding member, urges governments to promote tuberculosis  prevention as a critical component of TB elimination.

TB is the leading infectious disease killer worldwide, accounting for 1.5 million deaths in 2018 alone according to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 2019 Global TB Report. An additional 10 million people fell ill with TB in 2018.

Despite significant progress against TB in recent years, many people struggle to receive the treatment and care they need for reasons ranging from gaps in research and development and insufficient or underfunded health services, to long and difficult treatments or because of stigma. In addition, a quarter of the world’s population is estimated to be living with TB infection, the bacteria that causes the disease. People with TB infection are estimated to have a 5-10 percent chance of developing the disease over their lifetime but TB preventive therapy reduces a person’s risk of developing active TB by 60 to 90 percent.

The Sustainable Development Goals set a target to end the global TB epidemic by 2030 and at the United Nations High-Level Meeting on TB in 2018, world leaders committed to reaching at least 30 million people with preventive therapy by 2022. To do this, governments must ensure people have access to diagnosis and appropriate care at the earliest stage after exposure to TB and ensure populations at higher risk of developing TB, such as young children and people living with HIV, are proactively treated with preventive measures.    

FIRS calls for urgent action to advance TB prevention through rapid scale up of access to preventive treatment for TB infection for those most at risk of falling ill of TB including:

  • Four million children under five years of age.
  • 20 million other household contacts of people affected by TB.
  • Six million people living with HIV and AIDS.

“While TB control has focused on the identification and treatment of TB cases, TB prevention can decrease disease, morbidity, and transmission,” said ATS member and TB expert David Lewinsohn, MD. “Children, persons with HIV, and those living in close proximity to an active case are at risk of progression once infected.  Furthermore, using existing diagnostics and treatments, TB can be prevented in these vulnerable populations.  As TB eradication depends on these preventative strategies, rapid scale-up of TB prevention measures must be a priority element in national TB eradication strategies.”  

Dr. Lewinsohn added, “TB prevention ultimately depends on the development and usage of an effective vaccine.  Over the past year, the feasibility of vaccination to prevent TB in humans has been established, but significant effort and investments will be needed to bring a TB vaccine into clinical use. Finally, we must accelerate our progress against TB by increasing investments in TB and research and development programs.”


About the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS)

The Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) is an organisation comprised of the world's leading international respiratory societies working together to improve lung health globally: American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST), American Thoracic Society (ATS), Asian Pacific Society of Respirology (APSR), Asociación Latino Americana De Tórax (ALAT), European Respiratory Society (ERS), International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases (The Union), Pan African Thoracic Society (PATS), Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA), and the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD).

The goal of FIRS is to unify and enhance efforts to improve lung health through the combined work of its more than 70,000 members globally.

For more information about FIRS please contact Lisa Roscoe [email protected].