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Researchers concluded that more than 650,000 children develop TB every year in the 22 countries with the highest rates of the disease. That's nearly 25 percent more than a 2012 World Health Organization estimate of 530,000 per year.
The investigators also estimated that about 15 million children are exposed to TB every year, and about 53 million are living with latent TB infection that can progress to infectious, active TB at any time.
In 2010, about 7.6 million children younger than 15 in the 22 countries became infected with TB-causing bacteria, and about 650,000 of those children developed TB. India had the highest number of childhood TB cases, accounting for 27 percent of the total number of cases in countries studied.
The nations include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia, China, DR Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.
The researchers also found that 65 percent of active TB cases in children are missed every year by national TB programs, compared with 34 percent of cases in adults, according to the study published online July 8 in The Lancet Global Health.
"Our findings highlight an enormous opportunity for preventive antibiotic treatment among the 15 million children younger than 15 years of age who are living in the same household as an adult with infectious TB," study author Dr. Peter Dodd, from the University of Sheffield in the U.K., said in a journal news release.
"These findings show that what often has been taken as truth -- that control of tuberculosis in adults will inevitably result in improved tuberculosis control for children -- is fallacious as a stand-alone control strategy," Andrea Cruz and Jeffrey Starke, of the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, wrote in an accompanying editorial.
"Until the gap in case detection and reporting is closed, children will continue to suffer from insufficient access to appropriate resources," the editorialists noted.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: The Lancet Global Health, news release, July 8, 2014