Koen Vanden Driessche et al estimate in their recent Lancet Respir Med publication that the damage caused to tuberculosis care by the COVID-19 pandemic will cause an excess six million tuberculosis deaths by 2025.
Perhaps a silver lining to the large-scale global disruption caused by COVID-19 may be a change to the public perception of wearing face masks, which could prove a valuable tool in reducing tuberculosis transmission.
Cited reasons for low uptake of mask-wearing for the prevention of tuberculosis include stigma, access, discomfort, and perceived liberty deprivation. The reluctance to don a mask in public spaces - potentially seen as an embarrassing admission of illness - has been an obstacle to widespread use in high-burden locations where the impact could be game changing. Mycobacterium tuberculosis transmission is almost exclusively airborne, and the effective use of face masks is expected to significantly decrease infectiousness. Transmission-reducing tools are in dire need for this long-reigning infectious organism.
The authors provide preliminary considerations and recommendations for mask-wearing for the prevention of tuberculosis transmission (below).
The full publication can be found here.