Tuberculosis: Still Lurking and Evolving

(March 21, 2013)

Despite popular misconceptions that TB is a disease of the past, it continues to pose a threat to public health. In observance of World TB Day on March 24, the American Lung Association is calling attention to the increase of drug-resistant forms of TB and stressing the importance of adequate public health funding to address this serious health risk.

TB is a contagious airborne infection caused by an organism called Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which usually attacks the lungs. One-third of the total worldwide population is currently infected with TB.  Each year, close to 9 million people worldwide become ill with TB, and nearly 1.5 million people die.  TB is predicted to kill millions more in the next decade.

"TB is still lurking, and it continues to evolve," said Ross P. Lanzafame, Esq., chair, National Board of Directors, American Lung Association. "Despite the sequestration budget cuts, it remains imperative for the U.S. government to maintain funding of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to control this dreaded disease."

While current TB rates in the U.S. are the lowest since national reporting began in 1953, the decline has slowed in recent years.  The slowing decline of U.S. TB rates along with the widespread emergence of drug-resistant strains of the disease highlight the need to maintain focus on eradicating TB through surveillance, treatment and prevention.

"America let its guard down thinking TB was eradicated in the 1980's, and it came back to haunt us in the 90's when the number of TB cases spiked significantly due in part to co-infection with HIV," said Lanzafame. "We must be vigilant about TB control to ensure we are prepared as drug-resistant forms of TB continue to surface in the United States. Now is not the time to let our guard down."

"In addition, the Congress needs to continue to fund innovative research at the National Institutes of Health for new and improved TB treatments that target drug-resistant strains of this deadly disease," added Lanzafame.

The American Lung Association is at the forefront of funding research on these vital issues and examining the links between TB and other lung diseases and risk factors. Since 2002, the Lung Association has provided more than $2.7 million in support of TB.

To learn more about research supported by the American Lung Association, view our "Research Awards Nationwide" report.  Learn more about tuberculosis.

Current American Lung Association Funded Tuberculosis Research

Vikram Saini, Ph.D.
University of Alabama, Birmingham, Ala.
Link Between Cigarette Smoke and Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis

Jessica Seeliger
State University of New York, Stony Brook, N.Y.
Targeting Latent and Multi-Drug Resistant TB

J. Lucian Davis, M.D., MAS
University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, Calif.
New DNA Test May Cut Down on Unneeded TB Treatment


To learn more about these studies and other research supported by the American Lung Association, view our "Research Awards Nationwide" report at www.lung.org/research.