Tuberculosis killed 1.5 million people in 2014

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 29 October 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h5798
  1. Anne Gulland
  1. 1London

Around 9.6 million people around the world contracted tuberculosis (TB) in 2014, the World Health Organization’s annual update on the disease has estimated.1

This was an increase on the 2013 figure, when nine million people were estimated to be infected, although WHO said that the increase was due to improved national data rather than to any increase in the spread of TB.

The disease is estimated to have affected 5.4 million men, 3.2 million women, and one million children in 2014, and 12% of these cases were in people who were HIV positive.

Some 1.5 million people died from TB last year, making it a leading killer worldwide. It killed 890 000 men, 480 000 women, and 140 000 children. Of the 1.5 million people who died from TB in 2014, 400 000 were HIV positive. The total death toll from HIV in 2014 was estimated at 1.2 million, which included those 400 000 deaths from TB.

The number of people dying from TB has remained steady over the past few years: 1.4 million in 2011, 1.3 million in 2012, and 1.5 million in 2013. However, only two thirds of those thought to have contracted the disease—around six million cases—were reported to WHO. This means that 37% of cases went undiagnosed or were not reported, and the quality of care for these people is unknown.

Detection and treatment gaps are especially serious among people with multidrug resistant TB, which WHO describes as a “public health crisis.” Of the 480 000 cases estimated to have occurred in 2014, only about a quarter (123 000) were detected and reported to national authorities. The three countries with the most cases were China, India, and the Russian Federation.

An estimated 3.3% of new TB cases and 20% of previously treated cases involved multidrug resistant TB, a level that has changed little in recent years. However, great progress has been made overall in tackling TB, as mortality has fallen by 47% since 1990. The report also estimated that, since 2000, when the millennium development goal to halt and reverse TB incidence was set, 43 million lives have been saved through effective diagnosis and treatment.

Mario Raviglione, director of WHO’s Global TB Programme, noted room for improvement despite the successes. “We are still facing a burden of 4400 people dying every day, which is unacceptable in an era when you can diagnose and cure nearly every person with TB,” he said.


Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h5798


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