What is tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M.tb). It most commonly affects the lungs but can affect other areas of the body. The common symptoms of TB are coughing, fevers, night sweats and severe weight loss.

TB is highly infectious and is spread through the air if someone with the bacteria coughs, spits or sneezes. The disease is, however, curable and largely preventable.

Most healthy people who contract the bacteria will never experience symptoms. However, people who are undernourished, whose immune system is compromised or who live in extreme poverty are more likely to become ill.

TB is the most deadly infectious disease worldwide. In 2014 worldwide an estimated 9.6 million people fell ill with TB and 1.5 million people died.

In Bangladesh, TB is a major public health problem, killing around 81,000 people every year. Bangladesh is the world’s most densely populated country, allowing TB to spread quickly due to poor living conditions and a lack of knowledge about the disease.

In India in 2014, more than 1,609,000 people were newly diagnosed with TB and 220,000 died of the disease. 

TB can affect children and young people of working age. Poor health means they can no longer work and earn a living. The disease drives them further into poverty.


Directly observed treatment, short-course (DOTS) is at the heart of the World Health Organization (WHO) Stop TB strategy.  The basic five components are:

  • political commitment with increased and sustained financing
  • case detection through quality-assured bacteriology
  • standardised treatment with supervision and patient support
  • an effective drug supply and management system
  • monitoring and evaluation systems and impact measurement

"I thought I was dying" 

Ruhul was shunned from his community for having TB and forced to live in little more than a square box.

Read Ruhul's story