Global-, regional-, and national-level impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on tuberculosis diagnoses, 2020–2021

Published August 30, 2023, in Microorganisms (opens in a new window)


Evaluating cross-country variability on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on tuberculosis (TB) may provide urgent inputs to control programs as countries recover from the pandemic. 

We compared expected TB notifications, modeled using trends in annual TB notifications from 2013–2019, with observed TB notifications to compute the observed to expected (OE) ratios for 170 countries. We applied the least absolute shrinkage and selection operator (LASSO) method to identify the covariates, out of 27 pandemic- and tuberculosis-relevant variables, that had the strongest explanatory power for log OE ratios. 

The COVID-19 pandemic was associated with a 1.55 million (95% CI: 1.26–1.85, 21.0% [17.5–24.6%]) decrease in TB diagnoses in 2020 and a 1.28 million (0.90–1.76, 16.6% [12.1–21.2%]) decrease in 2021 at a global level. India, Indonesia, the Philippines, and China contributed the most to the global declines for both years, while sub-Saharan Africa achieved pre-pandemic levels by 2021 (OE ratio = 1.02 [0.99–1.05]). 

Age-stratified analyses revealed that the ≥ 65-year-old age group experienced greater relative declines in TB diagnoses compared with the under 65-year-old age group in 2020 (RR = 0.88 [0.81–0.96]) and 2021 (RR = 0.88 [0.79–0.98]) globally. Covariates found to be associated with all-age OE ratios in 2020 were age-standardized smoking prevalence in 2019 (𝛽
= 0.973 [0.957–990]), school closures (𝛽
= 0.988 [0.977–0.998]), stay-at-home orders (𝛽
= 0.993 [0.985–1.00]), SARS-CoV-2 infection rate (𝛽
= 0.991 [0.987–0.996]), and proportion of population ≥65 years (𝛽
= 0.971 [0.944–0.999]). 

Further research is needed to clarify the extent to which the observed declines in TB diagnoses were attributable to disruptions in health services, decreases in TB transmission, and COVID-19 mortality among TB patients.

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Ledesma JR, Basting A, Chu HT, et al. Global-, regional-, and national-level impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on tuberculosis diagnoses, 2020–2021. Microorganisms. 30 August 2023. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms11092191.