The International Union Against Tuberculosis has described a review of childhood TB published in The Lancet as unveiling an overlooked epidemic. Over one million children fall ill with TB each year, and just 1 in 3 receive the life-saving treatment they need.
The sad truth is that childhood TB is often considered a low priority in resource-poor settings because children with TB rarely infect others. Yet children are more likely to be left severely disabled by TB, as they are more vulnerable to complex forms of the disease.
TB in children is both an effect of poverty and a cause of poverty. It is most likely to affect children with HIV, the youngest, the weakest and most malnourished. And it limits children’s life chances by preventing them from completing their education.
Even where children do access diagnosis and treatment, they are often poorly served by the available technologies. There is a lack of appropriate diagnostic tools for paediatric cases meaning more cases are missed. Children who do receive a diagnosis often struggle to take medication designed for adults, risking drug resistance and death, as paediatric formulations are not yet widely available.