Redefine world’s deadliest infectious disease to improve treatment and care

Defining diseases is crucial to effectively treating, researching and monitoring them.

Current definitions for tuberculosis are outdated and categorize people with the disease into two categories: dormant (also called latent) infection, meaning they do not have an active form of the disease, and active infection.

In a viewpoint paper in Lancet Respiratory Medicine, an international group of clinical researchers and mathematical modelers, led by AIGHD epidemiologist researcher Frank Cobelens discuss the novel concept of adding a new definition: subclinical tuberculosis.

This is a form of tuberculosis in which the patient is not ill, meaning they may have little to no symptoms, but can still spread the infection to others.

“This type of tuberculosis may be more important for the burden and spread of the disease than is generally recognized because a significant portion of people fall within this category may contribute to the spread of this disease, in many cases, without knowing it,” said Frank.

“If we want to be able to accurately monitor, research and better understand the burden of this disease, we need a new way forward and we believe proposing new definitions for TB are crucial.”

TB is the ninth leading cause of death worldwide and the leading cause from a single infectious agent, ranking above HIV and AIDS, according to the World Health Organization. As part of AIGHD’s Infectious Disease research portfolio, our team is leading a number of TB-related research projects to better understand, treat and ultimately help eliminate this disease.

Learn more about our projects.