Having a recent tuberculosis (TB) diagnosis can skyrocket a person’s likelihood of dying from COVID-19, a new study finds.
Researchers from the California Department of Health gathered statewide data to identify how much of an increased risk of death TB patients suffered during the pandemic.
They found a person who was diagnosed with both TB and Covid within 30 days was 20 times as likely to die than someone who only had the virus, and twice as likely to die when compared to someone diagnosed with TB before the pandemic.
The findings show the high risk people with TB – a condition that can severely damage a person’s lungs – face during the pandemic.
Researchers found a direct correlation between how recent a TB diagnosis is and the likelihood of dying of Covid. A person diagnosed with TB within 30 days of Covid infection are 20 times as likely to die than the average person, and twice as likely to die as someone infected with TB before the pandemic
TB is a potentially devastating bacterial infection that can cause permanent lung damage, putting them at further risk from a virus like Covid (file image)
Researchers, who published their findings on Friday in JAMA Network Open, included data from 3.4 million Californians who had either TB or Covid – or both – between September 2019 and December 2020.
Participants were split into three groups. The largest group, making up 99 percent of partcipants, included people who contracted Covid, but not TB.
A second group, of around 6,000 people, included those who had a TB diagnosis before the pandemic and then contracted Covid.
The third group of 91 people included those who were diagnosed with both TB and the virus within 120 days of each other.
Researchers found that the rate of Covid infection among TB patients was similar to that of the general population with about 10 percent contractive the virus during that time.
Once infected, there was a direct correlation between length of time between Covid and TB diagnosis and likelihood to die.
The more recently a person was diagnosed with the lung condition, the more likely they were to die of Covid.
People who entered the pandemic with a TB diagnosis had a 10 percent chance of dying from Covid.
Those who received their TB diagnosis between 60 to 120 days of contracting Covid had a death rate somewhere between 15 to 20 percent.
A person who contracted the virus within 30 days of a TB diagnosis was around 23 percent likely to die from it, 20 times more than the one percent mortality rate of the general population, and twice that of people who entered Covid with a TB diagnosis.
‘Deaths were more frequent among persons diagnosed with TB/COVID-19 and predominately occurred among older adults,’ researchers wrote.
‘When adjusted for age, the mortality rate for persons with TB/COVID-19 remained higher than that of persons with either disease alone.’
Tuberculosis is a dangerous disease that spreads through respiratory droplets in the air, a similar fashion to Covid.
It may take months, or even potentially years, for an exposed person to develop an infection, making it a hard disease to treat and prevent.
A person will be infected with TB when bacteria infects a person’s lungs and, while a majority of people infected will not experience symptoms, those who do will suffer a serious cough, fever and other symptoms.
The condition can also cause permanent lung damage, putting TB sufferers at serious risk from a virus such as Covid that attacks the lungs to severely.
Researchers believe TB and Covid prevention efforts should be combined by health officials, because the conditions can build on each others risk, and because they are spread in similar fashions.
‘These results suggest potential benefit from the integration of TB and COVID-19 prevention efforts, such as combining COVID-19 vaccination outreach with targeted screening for TB,’ they wrote.
Overall detection of TB decreased during the pandemic, like many other diseases, because people were less likely to seek out medical care for symptoms due to fear of Covid.