Tuberculosis (TB) is an ancient disease that remains one of the most serious infections in the world. In 1990, the World Health Organization estimated that approximately 8 million new cases were active worldwide, the vast majority of which were in developing countries.1 Nearly three million people die annually from this disease.
The tubercle bacillus discovered in 1882 by Koch is currently considered the number one cause of death in developing countries.2– In the United States, TB was initially recorded as increasing as early as the 18th century, accounting for 300 deaths/100,000 in 1786 when statistics were first gathered in Massachusetts and climbing to 1,600/100,000 in 1800. The disease first appeared in the Northeast and spread to the Midwest, Southwest, and West. African Americans and native Americans experienced epidemics only later, in the wake of the spread of this disease. By the end of the last century, the prevalence of TB had peaked and mortality fell to 113/100,000 by the year 1920. At that time, it was still the second most common cause of death in the United States.3