All posts tagged: historical accounts

The Most Persistent Myth About Tuberculosis

The Most Persistent Myth About Tuberculosis

Growing up in India, which for decades has clocked millions of tuberculosis cases each year, Lalita Ramakrishnan was intimately familiar with how devastating the disease can be. The world’s greatest infectious killer, rivaled only by SARS-CoV-2, Mycobacterium tuberculosis spreads through the air and infiltrates the airways, in many cases destroying the lungs. It can trigger inflammation in other tissues too, wearing away bones and joints; Ramakrishnan watched her own mother’s body erode in this way. The sole available vaccine was lackluster; the microbe had rapidly evolved resistance to the drugs used to fight it. And the disease had a particularly insidious trait: After entering the body, the bacterium could stow away for years or decades, before erupting without warning into full-blown disease. This state, referred to as latency, supposedly afflicted roughly 2 billion people—a quarter of the world’s population. Ramakrishnan, now a TB researcher at the University of Cambridge, heard that fact over and over, and passed it down to her own students; it was what every expert did with the dogma at the time. …