The corona has also caused a worldwide increase in TB cases

According to Weiss, 1.6 to 1.7 million people die of tuberculosis worldwide each year. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the disease is often less commonly diagnosed with non-specific symptoms. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of new diagnoses dropped from 7.1 million in 2019 to 5.8 million in 2020, while there were a good 100,000 deaths from tuberculosis during that period.

Only a small number of diseases in Tyrol

In Tyrol, the disease was largely under control, with 76 cases in 1995 and only 27 in 2021. According to Weiss, the reason for the decline is better hygiene and living conditions. Tuberculosis used to be a disease of “poor people” who lived in precarious hygiene and housing conditions and were malnourished.

    Mycobacterium tuberculosis under an electron microscope

Janice Carrová

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Pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis under an electron microscope

Moreover, there was no specific therapy until the 1960s. “Patients were sent for air therapy, for example to Hochzirl, they were placed in the sun and sometimes a pneumothorax developed that caused the lungs to collapse. It was hoped that this would cure the infection, “says Weiss, who is also the director of the University Internal Medicine Clinic II.

No big danger from people from other countries

Weiss does not see a major problem in the fact that some people are fleeing or migrating from countries where tuberculosis is widespread. As a result, a significant increase in the number of diseases cannot be expected. Healthy people would have an extremely low risk of tuberculosis after contact with sick people. There is practically no infection outside.

A good immune system immediately eliminates the pathogen

A good immune system eliminates bacteria on the spot, says Weiss. This is the case for 50 to 70 percent of people who come in contact with TB. In the remaining 30 to 50 percent of people who have come in contact with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the immune system is unable to kill the bacteria immediately. Latent tuberculosis is developing and can be diagnosed by immunological tests.

Gunter Weiss


According to Weiss, a good immune system protects against infection

With increasing age, a weakened immune system or immunosuppressive therapy, latent tuberculosis may reactivate and become active tuberculosis. According to Weiss, about five percent of people with latent TB are affected in their lifetime. The symptoms of active tuberculosis are initially very non-specific with night sweats, decreased performance, weight loss, chronic cough and fever, and the disease progresses insidiously.

Treatment with extensive antibiotic treatment

According to the Tyrolean infectiologist, several antibiotics should be taken at the same time for at least six months to prevent the development of resistance. Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, which fortunately is not yet widespread in Austria, is treated for two to three years. However, with adequate therapy, there is a very good chance that the disease will be completely cured and will not return.

According to Weiss, small children are most at risk. Weakened and malnourished people are as at risk as patients with untreated HIV infection or impaired immune function due to other diseases or therapies.

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