Tuberculosis is commonly perceived as an eradicated disease by many in the West. However, TB rates have slowly been increasing over the last couple of decades and are now making a significant and aggressive comeback. A new wave of TB is spreading across London. Could this turn into a health crisis and should people be concerned?

According to an interesting article published by The Australian, the answer to both these questions may be yes. TB presents a particluar threat to certain groups in society. For healthy adults with a strong immune system, the risk of developing active TB remains relatively low. Known as a disease closely associated with poverty and exclusion, those most susceptable to TB are the homeless and prisoners. It is reported that at least one case is found every other week among these high risk London populations, leaving the affected with severe health impairments.

Alistair Story, the nurse in charge of Britain’s single mobile TB detection unit, is quoted by The Australian as saying that this combination of multiple risk factors forms “an unholy alliance between compromised immunity, shared airspace and un- detected cases, and a lifestyle that masks the presentation of the disease.” To further complicate the matter, many of the cases are becoming immune to one or several of the four available treatments.

The health authorities are currently focused foremost on managing the outbreak. Some precautionary routine measures already exist, for instance performing X-rays of new London prisoners. However, very little is done to prevent the outbreak of latent cases and the crisis management of those affected has not been efficient enough. The situation is widespread, and Story states “we have never gone into a major UK prison and not found a case of active TB.”

The lack of efficiency is largely due to the fact that the TB slowdown in the 1970′s left the authorities ill prepared for the current situation. Stronger TB control strategies are desperately needed in order to stop this resurgence in its tracks.