Meals As Medicine: Feed The Hungry To Treat The Tuberculosis Pandemic

“Annually, about 10 million people develop TB, and an estimated 1.5 million die from their disease, which makes it the leading infectious killer worldwide, even in the time of COVID-19.

[..] Key factors can significantly increase an individual’s risk. In particular, 2.3 million cases of TB were worldwide attributable to undernutrition in 2018: That’s one in five cases. By comparison, 1.2 million cases were attributable to HIV and 0.8 million cases to diabetes—risk factors that receive considerably more attention and funding. Undernutrition blunts the function of the immune system and increases the risk for TB so much so that it is likened to HIV/AIDS and called “nutritionally acquired immunodeficiency syndrome” or N-AIDS. Undernourished patients with TB get sicker, have more extensive lung damage, and are more likely to die from TB.

[..] Based on modeling studies, feeding an undernourished individual and increasing their body mass index (BMI) from 16 to 20 would decrease their risk for TB disease by about 50 percent. This would be as beneficial as the new TB vaccine, which is generating great enthusiasm. Of course, feeding people has benefits beyond mitigating TB risk: prevention of complications from vitamin and mineral deficiencies, protection against other infectious diseases, increased economic productivity, and decreased human suffering due to hunger.”

Full article, Sinha P and Hochberg NS. Health Affairs Blog 2020.9.29