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Bringing workers in tuberculosis together. 

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Abstracts for TBFocus TB Alert Conference

A Brief History

Two hundred years ago one death in four in the UK was caused by tuberculosis. It was the greatest killer the country had ever seen. Though the poor were the worst affected, every section of society had its victims, among the most notable being the three Bront sisters, and other literary giants such as Keats, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Walter Scott. For the next 150 years it remained a serious scourge and as recently as 1950, 50,000 cases were being notified each year in England and Wales. By the end of the 1950s BCG, the vaccine against tuberculosis and more importantly successful drug therapy had begun to reduce case numbers sharply. By 1987 only 5,700 cases were notified. However in recent years UK notifications have increased as per the Public Health Laboratory Service Figures.

The anti-tuberculosis work force

A number of organisations have been set up in the continuing battle against tuberculosis in the UK. In 1899 the National Association for the prevention of tuberculosis was formed to provide a charitable focus for tuberculosis work. This later became the Chest Association, then the Chest and Heart Association and then The Chest Heart and Stoke Association before, in 1991 reverting to the Stroke Association only and ceasing to fund research in Chest or Heart disease.
In parallel with this, doctors working in Chest medicine, the professional group who saw most of the nation's tuberculosis, formed themselves into the British Tuberculosis Association. As cases of tuberculosis declined this organisation gradually changed its title to the British Thoracic Society. Consultant Physicians specializing in Chest medicine still treat the great majority of tuberculosis cases, but such cases will only form a small minority of the cases they see.

TB in the UK now

Since 1987 cases numbers have risen from about 5,700 a year to just over 7,000. Numbers have remained steady at around this figure for the last five years. What has become apparent is that most of TB is now seen in those who have been infected abroad, usually in a developing country. There are approximately 8 million new cases and 3 million deaths from TB each year globally. The arrival of AIDS has greatly increased the number of cases as HIV represents the greatest risk factor we know of causing infection to proceed to disease. Tuberculosis is now the commonest cause of death in AIDS patients world-wide. A wider grouping of doctors is now seeing and managing TB patients, in particular specialists in Infectious Diseases, Paediatrics, and Genito-Urinary medicine.
The realisation that tuberculosis is not decreasing in this country because it is out of control in the developing world has lead to an increase in research workers looking at every aspect of the disease. Workers from backgrounds as diverse as anthropology and Engineering are joining battle.

TB WorldwideDiagrams showing worldwide infection and dynamic changes in infection
Why do we need a new organisation?
The need for a new society

The old structures which held together tuberculosis work in this country for nearly a century are now either deceased or outdated. A new society is needed to bring together the diverse groups involved in the management of patients and research into new ways of combating the disease. TB Focus is such a group. Its aim is to bring together workers in tuberculosis whatever their interest and background.


The current meeting schedule is annual with a varied programme to cover as many different aspects of tuberculosis as possible. We met in the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine for a day conference in 1998 and again in 1999. In 2000 we will meet according to the programme on our pages. All those working or researching into tuberculosis are welcome to attend. There will be a small charge for food and a further small joining fee so that new members can be kept informed about future meetings.

TB Alert

TB Focus works in conjunction with TB Alert, the new charity formed in 1998, designed to increase awareness of tuberculosis and provide resources for service work and research for tuberculosis in developing countries.

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Table of principal workers in tuberculosis (UK).

YearType of Worker
Clinical WorkersResearchers
Chest physicians          
Public Health workers    


Pharmaceutical companies
Chest Physicians
Public Health Workers
Infectious diseases specialists
Genito-urinary physicians




Molecular biologists
Cell biologists
Social Scientists


Table of TB Cases in England and Wales from 1979 to 1998
showing percentage by ethnic origin.

Ethnic OriginYear
Indian Sub-continent3536374139
TB Case numbers in a six month survey37323002214324582510

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tbfret.gif (1676 bytes)Contact Addresses
Meeting News

12 Dec 2000 at Chelsea and Westminster
Hospital Fulham Rd, London.

Articles and Papers

Priory Lodge Education Ltd 1999-2000