COVID-19 and TB: ‘A Cursed Duet’

Tuberculosis (TB) and COVID-19 are infectious diseases that primarily attack the lungs. Both have similar symptoms such as:

  • cough,
  • fever and,
  • difficulty breathing.

TB, however, has a longer incubation period with a slower onset of disease, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

While experience on COVID-19 infection in TB patients remains limited, the WHO and other health experts anticipate that people with both TB and COVID-19 (co-infection) may have poorer treatment outcomes, especially if TB treatment is interrupted. The WHO urged TB to take precautions as advised by health authorities to be protected from COVID-19 and continue their TB treatment as prescribed.

A recent study looked at 747 patients from several countries in Europe and outside Europe who had COVID-19 and TB co-infection. It observed a high death rate (11%) among patients with COVID-19 and TB, which was associated with older age, male gender and invasive ventilation.

According to the researchers, their data suggest that TB and COVID-19 are a “cursed duet” and need immediate attention. They recommended that TB be considered a risk factor for severe COVID disease and patients with TB be prioritized for COVID-19 preventative efforts, including vaccination.

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