After years of decline in reported tuberculosis cases in Germany, the number of cases rose slightly again last year from a low level. Around 4,480 cases were registered in 2023, as the Robert Koch Institute announced on the occasion of World Tuberculosis Day on March 24th.

In the previous year there were around 4,080 cases, in 2021 around 3,930. “The background for these latest developments is currently the immigration of people seeking protection from Ukraine,” it said. Tuberculosis is significantly more common in the country. According to the RKI, three quarters of the people who receive a tuberculosis diagnosis in this country were born outside Germany.

In Europe the focus is on Eastern Europe

Last year, according to estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO), 10.6 million people worldwide became ill with tuberculosis and 1.3 million died from it. According to the RKI, countries in Southeast Asia, such as the Philippines, Indonesia and India, as well as countries in southern Africa, such as Lesotho and Zimbabwe, are particularly affected. In Europe the focus is on Eastern Europe.

Tuberculosis is transmitted through the respiratory tract through aerosols containing bacteria and can be cured with medication in the vast majority of cases. In the case of a latent infection, illness can be prevented. A latent infection occurs when you are infected with tuberculosis bacteria without becoming ill. The treatment lasts at least six months.

Tuberculosis can usually be cured with medication

According to the RKI, the majority of those affected (70 percent) suffer from pulmonary tuberculosis. An infection is manifested by a cough, which in rare cases can be bloody. Occasionally, chest pain and shortness of breath occur. “If a cough persists for a long time, tuberculosis should also be considered and further examined using an X-ray examination of the lungs in accordance with existing recommendations,” recommended RKI President Lars Schaade.

Certain people are particularly at risk of illness

According to the RKI, people who have had close and long-term contact with people who have infectious pulmonary tuberculosis, as well as people with inadequately treated previous tuberculosis, are particularly at risk. “HIV, smoking, alcohol and drug addiction, malnutrition, diabetes mellitus and living conditions such as homelessness, previous imprisonment and poverty are also risk factors.”

Before the pandemic, according to the experts, there were many positive developments to end the global tuberculosis epidemic by 2035 in accordance with a WHO strategy. “The COVID-19 pandemic then led to painful setbacks in many countries that will have to be laboriously recovered.”