Tuberculosis Home > Tuberculosis Statistics in the United States

Why the Increase?

Cases of tuberculosis dropped rapidly in the 1940s and 1950s when the first effective antibiotic treatments for tuberculosis were introduced. In 1985, however, the decline ended and the number of active tuberculosis cases in the United States began to rise again. Several factors, often interrelated, were behind the return of tuberculosis, including:
  • The HIV/AIDS epidemic
  • People of many nationalities immigrating to the United States
  • Increased poverty, IV drug use, and homelessness
  • Failure of patients to take all prescribed antibiotics for tuberculosis (poor compliance)
  • Increased numbers of residents in long-term care.
The HIV/AIDS Epidemic
People with HIV are particularly vulnerable to moving from infection with M. tuberculosis to active TB and are also more likely to develop active TB when they are first infected with TB bacteria.
Increased numbers of foreign-born nationals come from places where many cases of tuberculosis occur, such as Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Tuberculosis cases among foreign-born nationals currently living in the United States account for more than half of the U.S. total.
Increased Poverty, IV Drug Use, and Homelessness
TB transmission is rampant in crowded shelters and prisons where people weakened by poor nutrition, drug addiction, and alcoholism are exposed to M. tuberculosis.
Poor Compliance
TB patients who do not complete TB drug treatment can stay infectious for longer periods of time, and, therefore, can spread TB to more people. In addition, treatment failures may result in M. tuberculosis strains that are resistant to one or more of the standard medicines given to TB patients, making the disease much more difficult to treat.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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