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Opinion
The Editors

Who Dies From Tuberculosis?

How poverty keeps a lethal illness alive.

A checkup in South Africa.

A checkup in South Africa.

Photographer: Alexander Joe/AFP/Getty Images

Tuberculosis, a disease fueled by poverty, overcrowding and undernutrition, is a global barometer of deprivation. Of the more than 4,000 men, women and children TB kills every day, most are poor.

TB's connection to poverty is explained, in large part, by the way Mycobacterium tuberculosis operates: It causes disease in only a fraction of the people it infects. Almost a quarter of the world’s population harbors the tuberculosis bacterium, but in most cases, it is walled off by the immune system.