News / Health

Study: Childhood TB Rates Much Higher than Estimated

FILE - X-rays of a tuberculosis patient at A. G. Holley Hospital in Lantana, Florida.
FILE - X-rays of a tuberculosis patient at A. G. Holley Hospital in Lantana, Florida.

Children are getting sick with tuberculosis at a much higher rate than previously estimated, according to a new study.

The research also presents the first-ever estimate of new TB infections among children: nearly eight million in 2010.

It’s a huge burden but an enormous opportunity to prevent future illnesses, the authors say, because low-cost treatment can stop infection from becoming disease.

Best guess

Hard data are hard to come by, but the World Health Organization’s best guess was that around a half-million children worldwide developed tuberculosis in 2011.

The WHO calculated that figure based on cases reported to health authorities. But many cases go unreported. Plus, TB in children is notoriously hard to diagnose.

So the authors of the new study in the Lancet decided to take a different route.

Family ties

“The vast majority of children who get TB who are young get it from someone in their family,” said study co-author James Seddon, a pediatrician with Imperial College London.

So the researchers used mathematical models to calculate how many children were likely to live with a family member with tuberculosis in the 22 countries that account for 80 percent of the world’s TB. They then estimated how many of those children got infected, and how many got sick.

They came up with roughly 650,000 illnesses in those countries, more than the WHO’s estimate for the entire world.

Most experts recognize the WHO’s estimate is low, so Seddon said that was not a huge surprise.

However, the group also found that 15 million children were living with a person with TB and 7.6 million were newly infected. No one had done those estimates before and, he said, they were  “much greater than I had anticipated.”

"Not a priority"

WHO recommends preventive therapy for children exposed to or infected with TB but not showing symptoms. However, in most countries with high TB rates, Seddon said, they don’t get it.

“Treating children who are asymptomatic and completely well is usually not a priority” in countries with limited resources and large numbers of sick patients who are actively spreading the disease, he said.

However, he added, “We would hope that these numbers do strengthen the argument for saying to national programs, ‘Look, you’ve got a lot of children in your country who are infected with TB. And if they’re not identified and given preventive treatment this is going to be a problem that is not going to go away in the future.'”

How big?

Childhood tuberculosis has not gotten as much attention as adult disease in part because experts did not know how big the problem was.

“When UNICEF or other organizations ask us, ‘Well, how many children become sick with tuberculosis every year?’ we end up sort of wringing our hands and saying, ‘Well, it’s very complicated,’” said infectious diseases doctor Jennifer Furin at Case Western Reserve University. She was not involved in the research.

“This paper is an incredible addition to the field because it tells us how many children we need to be screening and targeting for preventive measures each year so that they don’t go on to get sick,” she said.

And by preventing those future cases, “This will impact not just the health of children, but it will also greatly impact the health of adults as well, and contribute to stopping the chain of transmission that’s unabated in high-prevalence countries,” said Baylor College of Medicine pediatrician Jeffrey Starke, who co-wrote a comment accompanying the article.

You May Like

Video Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had warned storm could be one of worst in city history More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid