Increase in TB cases sends Ireland further away from elimination target

More than 36,000 cases of the disease were recorded across Europe in 2022, says WHO and ECDC

Ireland has moved off-course for a target to eliminate tuberculosis by 2030 following an increase in cases last year.

There were 224 notified cases of TB last year, up from 208 the previous year. Case numbers remain below pre Covid-19 pandemic levels of more than 300 annually.

Rates of TB – a bacterial infection that primarily affects the lungs – are almost 13 times high in people born outside Ireland compared with those born in the State, the figures from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) show. Sixty-six per cent of cases last year were in people born outside Ireland.

Across Europe, there were more than 36,000 TB cases in the EU in 2022, and 166,000 in the wider World Health Organisation European region, which includes Russia and Ukraine, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). There were 18,000 deaths.


TB rates are rising in most countries, as are the number of drug-resistant cases.

Nearly 7,000 excess deaths from tuberculosis occurred in the WHO European Region as a result of the pandemic from 2020 to 2022, compared with what experts had expected based on pre-2020 estimates, the two organisations say.

“Our latest report reveals a heartbreaking, entirely preventable situation – people affected by TB were not protected during the pandemic and 7,000 needlessly lost their lives because of disruptions to TB services,” said Dr Hans Kluge, regional director at WHO/Europe. “The report also reveals another evolving, preventable tragedy – the prevalence of drug-resistant TB continues to rise. We urge national authorities to strengthen TB testing programmes, diagnose promptly and apply the latest WHO guidelines.”

In Ireland, TB rates for cases born outside Ireland were highest last year in those aged 15 to 24. For those born here, the highest rates were among people aged 65 and over.

The highest rates were recorded in Dublin & North East, and the lowest in Dublin & South East. Rates were higher in men than women across most age groups.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.