Mission Doctors Association

Dr. Robert Koch

Today, as on each March 24th, is World Tuberculosis Day marking the day in 1882 when Dr. Robert Koch announced he had discovered the bacterium that causes tuberculosis1,2.

Tuberculosis remains the world’s deadliest infectious killer.2,6.  Every day 30,000 people fall ill from tuberculosis and 4500 people per day die2.  This disease burden is borne primarily by adults in their most productive years, but affects those of all ages with 230,000 children dying of TB in 20175.  It is a leading cause of death for people also infected with HIV3.  While the United States now has only 2.8 cases of TB per 100,000 population, it is really not so long ago (in 1900, less than 20 years after Dr. Koch’s discovery) that tuberculosis was the number one cause of death in the U.S.4   People living in resource-limited mission lands have not fared as well with this disease in the last century with over 95% of both current cases and deaths from TB occurring in developing countries5.  As with so many illnesses, the great worldwide burden of the disease is borne by those with the least resources.

There is cause for optimism, though.  Despite the challenges of drug-resistant tuberculosis, the incidence of TB is falling globally by 2% per year thanks to TB diagnosis and treatment5.  This effort is estimated to have saved 54 million lives from 2000 to 2017.  Those living in mission lands who have been cured of their tuberculosis or kept from ever being infected at all can be thankful for the pioneering work of Dr. Robert Koch 137 years ago.

1.  The Nobel Prize

     Robert Koch Biographical


2.  World Health Organization

     World Tuberculosis Day 2019


3.  CDC

     Tuberculosis (TB) Data and Statistics



     Health United States, 1987

     U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


5.  WHO



6.  WHO

     10 facts on tuberculosis


Dr. Tim Cavanagh

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