A further significant advance came in 1895 when Wilhelm Konrad von Rontgen discovered the radiation that bears his name. Now the progress and severity of a patients disease could be accurately followed and reviewed. (NJDHSS)
An important development in the treatment of TB started in 1886 in the United States. The physician Edward Trudeau led the sanatorium movement, based on the European model of strict supervision in providing fresh air and sunshine, bed rest, and nutritious foods. (NDHHS) This movement took place in conjunction with growing infection control measures in large urban centers of the country, and TB patients who could not be treated in local dispensaries were removed from the general population and place into sanatoriums. By 1938 there were more than 700 sanatoriums throughout the U.S., yet the number of patients outnumbered the beds available. (NDHHS) Thankfully after centuries, even millennia, of humans succumbing to TB, during World War II doctors were finally able to create a medicine to treat patients with this disease.
In 1943, Selman A. Waksman, who had been working for decades to find an antibiotic that was effective against Mycobacterium tuberculosis, was finally successful. Streptomycin purified from Streptomyces griseus was first administered to a human on November 20, 1944 with impressive results. The disease immediately stopped its progression, the bacteria disappeared from the patients sputum, and there was a full recovery. (eMedtv.com) This development helped to significantly decrease the rate of TB infection in the United States in the following decades, and despite a slight uptick in the 1970s and 1980s due to lax public health efforts, TB cases have seen a steady decline since the 1990s. (Centers for Disease Control)
While TB is not a severe public health issue in the United States, it is still a great concern in other parts of the world.
According to the World Health Organization, 1.77 million people died from TB in 2007 alone, with more than half of these deaths occurring in Asia. Among the 15 countries with the highest estimated TB incidence rates, 13 are in Africa, while half of all new cases are in six Asian countries. (World Health Organization – WHO) Another troubling development is the emergence of multi-drug resistant TB strains all around the world which do not respond to the standard initial drug treatments. (WHO) Despite these challenges the WHO and the United Nations in 2006 started the “Stop TB Strategy” with the goal of reducing by 2015 the prevalence of and deaths due to TB by 50% relative to 1990 and reverse the trend in incidence. The strategy emphasizes the need for proper health systems and the importance of effective primary health care to address the TB epidemic. (WHO)
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