Tuberculosis, or TB, is still one of the major causes of preventable death in the world. TB is an infectious disease caused by TB bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) and most often affects the lungs. TB infection can cause serious damage to the lungs and other organs.

Signs and symptoms

The signs and symptoms of active TB (disease) are coughing, sometimes with sputum or blood, chest pains, weakness, weight loss, fever and night sweats.
Tuberculosis is curable and preventable. The vast majority of people with TB can be cured, if rapidly and accurately diagnosed; and if appropriate medicines are provided and are taken properly. But without proper tuberculosis treatment up to two thirds of people ill with TB may die.

TB infection is spread from person to person through the air when people with lung TB cough, sneeze or spit. When a person develops the disease TB, the symptoms may be mild for many months. This can lead to delays in seeking care, and results in transmission of the bacteria to others. An individual with undiagnosed and untreated lung TB disease may infect ten to fifteen other people through close contact.

Latent TB infection

An estimated one-third of the world’s population has latent TB infection, which means a person has been infected by TB bacteria but is not (yet) ill with the disease and cannot transmit the disease.
People infected with TB bacteria have a lifetime risk of 10 percent of falling ill with TB. The body’s immune system is often strong enough to prevent the development of the disease. However persons with compromised immune systems, such as people living with HIV, malnutrition, or diabetes, or people who use tobacco, have a much higher risk of falling ill.


The impact of TB in children is devastating. An estimated 1.12 million children became ill with TB In 2018 according  to WHO. They represent 10% of all TB cases in high burden countries. Children are also more likely to be left severely disabled by TB, as they are more vulnerable to complex forms of the disease such as TB meningitis.

If you, or somebody in your family or other close persons have lung TB it might spread to others. TB is spread before the sick person has started treatment and some weeks after. The people living in the same household are most at risk to get TB. All who have been infected with TB don’t develop TB illness. Small children, young adults, elderly and people who have weak immune system develop TB illness easily. 

An estimated 205,000 children died of TB, including 32,000 TB deaths, among those living with HIV.

Nigeria is ranked 6th among the 30 high TB burden countries in the world and 1st in Africa. Nigeria also accounts for 8% of the global gap between TB incidence and notified cases.

According to WHO, 10 million children have been orphaned by TB, making them more likely to live in poverty and die young themselves.The challenges of tackling TB in children are enormous but not insurmountable.

To diagnonize: Sputum testing remains the most common form of TB diagnosis. Children are less likely to have a productive cough, or to be able to provide a sample. Even if they do, their samples are less likely to contain visible TB bacteria – even when the bacteria are present in their bodies.

Treatment: TB treatment is long and arduous, involving numerous medications with many side effects. A child-friendly TB treatment formulation was only introduced to the market in late 2015. Most often, children are forced to take a bitter concoction of crushed-up adult pills. This risks drug refusal and wrong dosing, and therefore the development of drug-resistance.

KNCV TB Foundation Nigeria, with support from USAID, is at the fore front of this fight. They support comprehensive TB care and treatment services in 14 states in Nigeria. Implementation of key intervention, like  the TB surge, which targets volunteer staff as frontline care providers to offer TB screening, Identify presumptive, and ensure referral for diagnostic evaluation and treatment within high volume health facilities. 

People who have TB are usually more vulnerable to other infections, including the novel coronavirus, due to pre-existing lung damage. They are at a higher risk of developing complications from COVID-19. 

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