To Be Young and to Have TB

By Leili Najmabadi 

Globally, 1.8 million people aged between 10 to 24 years get infected by tuberculosis (TB) every year, with 20-24 year olds at greatest risk. The European Respiratory Journal conducted the first research study analyzing TB in this age group to better understand the burden of this disease in a specific population of young people. Previously, data was only given for children under 14 years of age and adults over 15 years of age. In-depth research on this age group is especially important due to the disease’s ability to affect productivity in school, work, or family life. Transmission of TB occurs through the inhalation of droplets from coughs and sneezes from infected patients. Common symptoms include a severe cough, fever, and weight loss and treatment for these symptoms usually includes antibiotics.

Adolescents in Kathryn Snow’s research at the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Melbourne, Australia were categorized into groups aged 10 to 14 years, 15 to 19 years, and 20 to 24 years. South Asia, followed by Sub-Saharan Africa, had the greatest amount of new TB cases at 721,000 and 534,000 cases. Both these regions have high amounts of young adults in their population, which could explain the large amount of burden in these areas. Snow hypothesized that both biological and social factors contribute to the high risk of TB in adolescents, largely due to their constant interaction with their peers.

With the results of this study, epidemiologists are hoping to re-evaluate their prevention strategies to target the young population most vulnerable to tuberculosis. Addressing the stigma behind TB and creating more accessible and effective treatment is also a priority among public health officials combating the TB epidemic.


European Lung Foundation. (2018, February 21). First global estimate finds 1.8 million young people develop tuberculosis every year. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 2, 2018 from