The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is investigating what is behind an 11% rise in tuberculosis cases in England last year.

There were 4,850 tuberculosis cases in 2023 compared to 4,380 in 2022, representing a jump of 10.7%, according to provisional data.

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, TB incidence was lower than this, with 4,615 cases in 2018 and 4,725 cases in 2019.

The UKHSA is currently investigating the reasons behind this increase.

Urban areas such as London and centres in the North West and West Midlands have seen the ‘largest rises in cases’.

According to the UKHSA, TB is associated with deprivation and is more common in large cities and among people born outside of the UK, especially in countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Eritrea, and Romania.

‘The proportion of TB notifications accounted for by people born outside the UK has been steadily rising for a number of years. However, the increase in TB in 2023 has now been seen in both UK born and non-UK born populations in England,’ the UKHSA said.

The agency has warned that this rise steers the UK further off course from achieving the World Health Organisation (WHO) 2035 elimination target.

Head of the TB Unit at UKHSA Dr Esther Robinson encouraged people to speak to their GP if they have a cough with mucus that lasts longer than three weeks, as she warned this is not necessarily caused by Covid or flu and could be TB.

‘We need collective action to tackle TB and we are working with partners across the health system to understand how we can best refocus efforts to stamp out this preventable and treatable infection,’ she added.

In 2022, the Government said GPs should offer TB symptom screening to all new patients from Ukraine aged over 11. 

The UKHSA is also tackling a rise in measles cases across the UK, with outbreaks concentrated in the West Midlands and, more recently, clusters of cases in other regions.

This article first appeared on our sister publication Pulse.