The COVID-19 pandemic may lead to 95,000 additional tuberculosis (TB) related deaths in India over the next five years, due to disruptions to health services, and delays in diagnosis and treatment, according to a study published on Wednesday.


The modelling study, published in the European Respiratory Journal, found that the COVID-19 pandemic could significantly increase the global burden of TB.


It estimates at least 110,000 additional deaths from TB in India, China, and South Africa unless health services maintained and strengthened.


The researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and Lancaster University in the UK noted that before COVID-19 outbreak, over 4,000 people were dying from TB every day.


They estimated additional TB deaths and cases in China, India and South Africa over the next five years by examining the impact of various reductions in social contacts and on health services due to COVID-19.


They hypothesised that social distancing might reduce TB incidence as Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria which causes the disease, is transmitted via droplets in the air – similar to the coronavirus.


However, even after taking into account this potential reduced TB transmission, the most likely scenario was estimated to result in more than 110,000 additional TB deaths, according to the researchers.


In the worst-case scenario where the impact of COVID-19 on health services is severe, this number could rise to up to 200,000 additional deaths, they said.