Saturday 18 April 2020

Centenary of the Discovery of the Tubercle Bacillus (Bahamas, 1982)

It seems weird writing about tuberculosis as we’re in the midsts of the COVID-19 pandemic but this is today’s stamp, so here we are.

Tuberculosis remains the deadliest infectious disease in the world. Around 1/4 of the global population carries TB, but does not necessarily become ill from it. The World Health Organisation estimates that 10 million people fell ill from TB and around 1.5 million died. It’s particularly brutal to those with HIV / AIDS, but is also a disease associated with poverty and overcrowding (in developing and developed cities).

The tubercle bacillus was identified in 1882 by Robert Koch, who went on to receive a Nobel Prize for his work. Albert Camette and Camille Guerin identified a potential vaccine in 1908; their studies over a 13 year period led to the first human vaccine (they are the C and the G in the BCG vaccine). Use of the vaccine in the developed world has tailed off as TB has become less common; however, around 100 million children around the world are vaccinated each year.

TB is preventable and curable, and tackling it remains a key priority in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

For more on the history of TB in the Bahamas, see:

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