March 24, 2014 marked World Tuberculosis (TB) Day.  TB affects millions upon millions of individual every year – but perhaps hits children the hardest.  A new study indicates that approximately one million children become infected with TB every year.  While many work tirelessly to combat the disease, it is clearly still a major worldwide threat to health, particularly among children. 

One significant concern today is that more and more children are becoming infected with multi-drug resistance TB (MDR TB).  MDR TB—a new, drug resistant strain of tuberculosis—threatens the progress to combat and eradicate the disease.  Drug resistant TB arises from the improper use of antibiotics, failing to complete the course of the treatment, and the improper administration of drugs used to treat TB in areas where tuberculosis is extremely prevalent and considered at high risk. 

TB is an airborne infectious disease that spreads by coughing or sneezing where the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacterium can float and hover in the environment for hours.  Anyone who breathes the bacterium contaminated air will become infected with tuberculosis.  Unlike in adults, in children, the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacterium spreads quickly and rapidly affects the body.  Often times, infected children become sick and die before a healthcare provider can even diagnosis the problem.  The sputum test, which is used to test for the bacterium, has proven to be largely ineffective in diagnosing and identifying TB in children.  Because the bacterium does not strictly confine itself to just the lungs in children, other organs, such as, the bone marrow and brain are affected as well; thus making it difficult to diagnosis and treat TB in children. 

Of the one million global TB cases reported in children in 2010, 30,000 of those cases were related to drug-resistance TB.  These cases could be easily prevented by taking measures to thoroughly screen all individuals who have been in contact with the infected patient including children, and by properly managing and delivering drugs to the patient.  If children are not examined by healthcare providers, they are not receiving the proper preventative care treatment necessary to treat TB.        

This post was written by GHC intern Jyoti Singh.