March 24 is World TB Day

Posted on by Kenneth G. Castro, MD, Director of CDC Division of Tuberculosis Elimination
Kenneth G. Castro, MD, Director, Division of Tuberculosis Elimination
Kenneth G. Castro, MD, Director, Division of Tuberculosis Elimination
World TB Day is observed annually on March 24. On this date in 1882, German physician Robert Koch announced his discovery of the cause of tuberculosis (TB). At the time, TB caused one in seven deaths around the world, but could not be fought effectively because no one knew its source. Dr. Koch discovered that TB is caused by the bacillus Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Koch’s process set the stage for modern scientific procedures, and guides basic TB diagnosis today.

The World TB Day annual observance reminds us of Koch’s scientific breakthrough and provides an opportunity to raise awareness about the ongoing challenges, promising solutions and need to support TB-control efforts worldwide.

Recent years have seen promising advances in TB control: a new test that detects TB in hours instead of weeks, the first new TB drug in 50 years, and potential vaccines in development.  But, the rise of drug-resistant TB threatens to undermine this progress.

After effective drugs were discovered in the 1940s, TB began declining in the United States.  However, in the mid-1980s, TB surged back, fueled by reduced investment in TB control, the emergence of HIV/AIDS, and growing drug resistance.  With intensive efforts to stop TB transmission and the development of new approaches, the United States succeeded in stopping the resurgence with decreases in annual cases beginning in 1993.

While we’ve made significant progress in reducing TB in the United States, it remains an urgent public health problem in many parts of the world.  In 2011, nearly 8.7 million people became ill with TB and 1.4 million died from it.  Each year, more and more TB cases become resistant to our best drugs.

Multidrug-resistant TB (MDR TB) is spreading in many regions, especially Asia and Eastern Europe. Currently, there are an estimated 630,000 MDR TB cases worldwide, but only 1 in 5 has been accurately diagnosed. Treatment for MDR TB is long, difficult, and costly.

TB in the United States reflects how global and connected our world has become, with the majority of our TB cases occurring in persons born in other countries.  To combat TB here at home, we must also fight TB abroad.  TB anywhere is truly TB everywhere.

In the U.S. and around the world, CDC staff provide guidance on managing difficult TB cases; train health staff on TB control principles and laboratory science; test new drugs; develop and test new ways to prevent, find, and treat TB; and improve surveillance systems to measure impact.  

As we learned during the U.S. TB resurgence of the 1980s, we must not be complacent and believe the fight is won.  We must affirm our global commitment to combating TB, expand and improve existing tools, and seek better ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat TB among all populations.

For more information on CDC’s role in national and global TB control, visit

Posted on by Kenneth G. Castro, MD, Director of CDC Division of Tuberculosis EliminationTags ,
Page last reviewed: May 11, 2021
Page last updated: May 11, 2021
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