New data published by UKHSA shows a temporary drop in reported cases of tuberculosis in 2020

tuberculosis_88316908_Tatiana Shepeleva

A new report by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows the number of cases of tuberculosis (TB) diagnosed in 2020 fell by 13% from 2019; however, the decline in cases must be interpreted with caution as the COVID-19 pandemic saw a reduction in social mixing.

The decline in TB cases in 2020 came after a slight rise in 2019, following a steady decline between 2011 and 2018.

Despite the drop in TB cases in 2020, there was an increase in the number that were drug resistant, requiring longer and more complex treatment. Of lab confirmed TB cases, 2.4% were rifampicin- or multidrug-resistant, which represents the highest proportion since enhanced surveillance began in 2000.

Most TB cases occur among specific risk groups, such as people with close links to countries with a high TB burden, people with social risk factors such as homelessness, a history of imprisonment or problem drug or alcohol use, and older people. Data from 2020 continues to show the impact of TB in these under-served populations in England.

Dr Esther Robinson, Head of the TB unit at the UKHSA, said: ‘The year 2020 was unique, so we must treat the decline in reported cases with caution. More recently, we know that global cases of TB have risen as communities have returned to more normal social patterns after COVID-19 restrictions and England is no different.

Our ongoing surveillance shows that cases have risen during 2021 as access to and engagement with services has improved. Learning about the impact of the pandemic on TB diagnosis and treatment is vital if we are going to reverse the small increase in rates seen in 2019, after the steady decline between 2011 and 2018.

Working with NHS England and partners across the heath system, the TB Action Plan for England 2021–2026 will build on the improvements in the prevention, detection, and control of TB in England over the past 10 years, and drive our commitment to eliminate TB by 2030.’


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Lead image: Tatiana Shepeleva/stock.adobe.com 

Image 1: Tatiana Shepeleva/stock.adobe.com