New cases of tuberculosis decreased by nearly 5% last year compared to 2009, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) has said.
There were 8,483 new cases of the disease reported in the UK in 2010 - a decrease of 4.9% from 2009 when there were 8,917 cases, according to the HPA’S Annual TB Report 2011.
As in previous years the main burden of disease remains concentrated in certain urban areas, with London accounting for the highest proportion of cases in the UK with almost 40%, followed by the West Midlands with 11%.
The research also found that one in 20 TB patients were failing to complete the full treatment for their infection because they were lost to follow up.
Although significant progress has been made in increasing the proportion of patients completing treatment thanks to new initiatives such as the Find and Treat service in London, the fact that 5% of patients are still not completing the treatment is of concern, the HPA said.
TB is treatable with a six month course of antibiotics, but if the full course is not completed the infection may linger and can develop resistance to the antibiotics used to treat it.
Failure to complete treatment also contributes towards onward transmission, putting other people, particularly close family contacts, at risk.
The study found that 60% of TB cases in the UK occurred in young adults aged 15-44 years old and over half (57%) were male.
Dr Ibrahim Abubakar, head of TB surveillance at the HPA, said: “The key to reducing levels of TB is early diagnosis and appropriate treatment. TB is a preventable and treatable condition but, if left untreated, can be life threatening.
“We remain very concerned that 5% of TB patients don’t fully complete their treatment.
“People who remain untreated are not only jeopardising their own health and wellbeing but also those people they are in close contact with as they may remain infectious.
“Efforts need to be made to target high-risk groups such as immigrants from countries with a high burden of TB, homeless persons, problem drug users and prisoners.”