The extent of TB infection in the past and today

under construction

Numerous books and articles published around 70-100 years ago claim that almost 100% of the population becomes infected with TB during their lifetime. Most people infected with TB don't get any disease from it. Evidence of infection comes from chest X-rays, autopsies, the TB skin test and today possibly from CAT scans, MRI, etc.


quote from first column in the third paragraph

The fact is that nearly every person living in a civilized community has been infected before reaching the twelfth year of life

second column sixth paragraph

It is every day becoming more evident that by the time our children reach maturity they are all infected with tubercle bacilli

second column in the thirteenth paragraph

yet according to the tuberculin test ninety-five per cent would be credited with having the disease

Tuberculous Infection and Tubercuolous Immunity
by A. C. Geyser MD
New York Medical Journal 1916 (pages 211-212)

in the fourth paragraph page 519

by the age of puberty a large majority of children (70 percent) harbor or have harbored the tubercle bacilli in their bodies, more particulary if they dwell in cities. By the age of twenty-five somehow all have been infected with tubercle bacilli.

Some Causative Factors of Pulmonary Tuberculosis
by L. Brown
Am. Rev.Tuberc. 1921-1922 (pages 518-546)

starting at the bottom of the first page

The tubercle bacillus is widespread and, as it is very resistant to destruction, the chances of infection are great. The risk is greatest in urban communities, and it is believed that practically everyone is attacked by the organism at some time or other. Evidence of universal tuberculisation is got from two sources. Post-mortem examination has shown that fully 70 per cent of cases dying from other causes show evidence of arrested tuberculosis, usually in lymphatic glands. Clinical tests with tuberculin give similar information. As children advance in years the percentage of positive results increases until, by the time adult life is reached, as many as 97 per cent may show evidnece of tuberculisation.

The Importance of Family History of Tuberculosi, With Special References to Life Assurance
W. C. Reid FFA
Edinburgh Medical Joural 1938 (pages 213-225)

First world vs. third world paradox

Most TB cases occur in the poorer third world countries, while it is much less of a problem in western countries. Why is this? It appears that the main drivers of TB in poorer countries are overcrowding, lack of sanitation in some cases, malnutrition and poverty related issues. Other diseases can cause latent TB to become active. Being HIV positive increases the chance of TB becoming active, too. Another possibility is genetic resistance. TB was a problem in Europe starting about the 1400s, reached a peak in the 1700s and declined throughout the 20th century, whereas TB was rare in most parts of the world prior to the 1800s. This appears to have resulted in European decendents having a higher average resistance compared to most other races and ethnic groups in the world (natural selection).

Look at the list under
What are the rates of TB for different racial and ethnic populations?
Note that whites are at the bottom of the list

A later report

Compare that to the list in the article that was published in 1912 here.

Genetics and Resistance to Tuberculosis
William W. Stead MD
American College of Physicians 1992

First genetic resistance factor against tuberculosis infection identified

Genetic susceptibility to tuberculosis in human populations
Richard Bellamy
Thorax 1998;53:588 - 593

The Importance of Family History of Tuberculosis with Special References to Life Assurance
Edinburgh Medical Joural 1938