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

    S. African Farmer Goes From 'Voice in the Wilderness' to Sought-After Expert

    Margarest Roberts has authored more than 40 books on subjects like organic farming, urban agriculture, herbs and ‘superfoods'

    Millennial Men Prefer Bucks Over Beauty

    U.S. men aged 18 to 34 say the finances of a potential significant other are more important than her looks

    Multimedia Lebanese Clown Troupe Marks Valentine's Day Amid Stink

    Activists resort to unusual approaches to raise public awareness of country’s ongoing trash crisis

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.