Scientists across the world developed the basics required to fight off a pandemic at dizzying speed following the global outbreak of COVID-19. The equitable deployment of these medical breakthroughs, including vaccines, continues to be a jarring problem. Nevertheless, no one can say that science has been found wanting in responding to the global health crisis.

Not so when it comes to TB. The response to the disease, which has killed more people than any other single infectious agent in history, including SARS-CoV-2, has been dismal on the scientific as well as the political front. The last time a vaccine was developed for it was a 100 years ago. And it has never been treated as an emergency. 

What’s particularly concerning is that advances in curbing the disease have suffered a number of setbacks.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been one. In 2020 TB case detection fell by almost 20% and mortality rose for the first time in a decade to 1.5 million. These setbacks are directly attributable to the pandemic.

And then there’s war. Conflicts in Ethiopia, Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen have led to countless unnecessary deaths. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is showing the world, yet again, the abhorrent consequences of war. In these desperate conditions, control of infectious diseases breaks down. TB is a case in point.

Ukraine still has one of the highest burdens of TB in Europe. Nearly a third of the people affected have drug-resistant TB. Tom Wingfield and Jessica Potter set out why the war is an impending disaster for TB control in the country, the entire region - and potentially beyond.

As much as the COVID-19 pandemic has set back the fight against TB, there are valuable lessons to be learnt from how the world responded. Richard E. Chaisson spells out what can be drawn from the COVID-19 pandemic on how to accelerate progress against a global health threat.

Caroline Southey

Founding Editor

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine poses a threat to the control of drug-resistant TB in Europe and the world

Tom Wingfield, University of Liverpool; Jessica Potter, Queen Mary University of London

Ukraine has one of the highest rates of multidrug-resistant TB in the world.

Like COVID, TB is a pandemic and must be treated as an emergency

Richard E. Chaisson, Johns Hopkins University

In 2020 TB case detection fell by almost 20% and mortality rose for the first time in a decade. These setbacks are directly attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘Test and treat’ is being used to tackle HIV. Why not TB?

Harriet Mayanja-Kizza, Makerere University

In high-income countries people at high risk of TB disease undergo screening programmes even when they have no symptoms.

TB prevention has relied on the same vaccine for 100 years. It’s time for innovation

Bavesh Kana, University of the Witwatersrand

BCG remains the only widely available vaccine for TB. Yet the development of a COVID-19 vaccine over the last year shows that there is capacity to rapidly create new vaccines.

Russia is now reliant on heavy artillery — Stalin’s ‘God of War’ — in Ukraine

Alexander Hill, University of Calgary

Seizing Kharkiv or Kyiv is going to take time and heavy use of artillery— called ‘the God of War’ by Joseph Stalin — if it happens at all.

Russia sanctions: new impetus for Chinese yuan to move up the reserve currency ladder?

Elsabe Loots, University of Pretoria

As the world becomes more divided by this war, the Chinese yuan may become the safe haven for Russia and other liked-minded countries.

Ukraine war: why are so many Russian generals being killed?

Jonathan Jackson, Birmingham City University

Five senior Russian officers have now been reported killed in three weeks.

Economic sanctions may make Russians’ lives worse – without stopping Putin’s assault on Ukraine

Joseph Wright, Penn State; Abel Escribà-Folch, Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Personalist dictators tend to shield the elites who support them from the economic pain of sanctions by pushing costs onto regular people.

Ukraine war: people are fighting and dying for Vladimir Putin’s flawed version of history

Félix Krawatzek, University of Oxford; George Soroka, Harvard University

Ukraine war: Vladimir Putin is struggling to convince people why history is on his side – both internationally and at home.

Diébédo Francis Kéré: how first Black winner of architecture’s top prize is committed to building ‘peaceful cities’

Lakshmi Priya Rajendran, UCL; Maxwell Mutanda, UCL

The west African master has been awarded for his lifelong focus on grassroots architecture and empowering local communities.