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Tuberculosis in Malaysia: Incidence, Prevalence and Strategies to End TB

Tuberculosis in Malaysia



Tuberculosis, commonly referred to as TB, is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium ‘Mycobacterium tuberculosis’, which primarily affects the lungs but can also spread to other organs. These are aerobic (require oxygen to survive) rod-shaped bacilli. Unfortunately, there has been a noticeable increase in TB cases in Malaysia. In 2023, the number of reported TB cases rose to 26,781, compared to 25,391 in 2022 and 21,727 in 2021.



TB bacteria spread through the air from one person to another. When a person with TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, speaks, or sings, TB bacteria can get into the air in droplets. People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected.



The Mycobacterium tuberculosis can survive in the human body for long periods of time with the ability to remain in a dormant state inside host tissues for many years even under conditions like limited oxygen and nutrition. This condition when the bacteria are in the body yet not causing (any sign of) a disease is called “latent infection.” They can revert to an active state when favourable conditions (reduced host immune response, undernutrition etc.) ensue.


Prevalence of Tuberculosis in Malaysia



According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the estimated TB prevalence rate in Malaysia in 2019 was 80 per 100,000 population.


Incidence of Tuberculosis in Malaysia



The estimated TB incidence rate in Malaysia in 2019 was 25 per 100,000 population.


The National Strategic Plan for TB Control


The Ministry of Health (MoH) is striving to achieve a TB-free status for the country by 2035, as outlined in the “End TB Strategy” envisioned by the World Health Organization (WHO). This goal can be accomplished through the implementation of various strategies, such as including active contact tracing, early detection of cases, ensuring quality laboratory services, and utilizing MyTB databases. These measures will contribute to a gradual reduction in TB cases and mortality rates in Malaysia, ultimately leading to the eradication of TB.


Contact Tracing for TB


Once a person is identified as having active TB, efforts are made to identify those who might be at risk based on the level of exposure. Those in the same household, sharing rooms would be more at risk. After evaluation, those at higher risk will have to undergo screening tests.


Through the MySejahtera app, individuals can track active cases of infectious diseases in their vicinity, including TB. This feature aids the community in becoming more aware of TB symptoms, such as a persistent cough lasting for weeks, night sweats, fever, weight loss, and others. Moreover, it encourages people to exercise caution by adopting preventive measures to curb the spread of the disease, such as practicing proper coughing etiquette, wearing face masks in crowded areas, and maintaining good hand hygiene.


Test for Tuberculosis if you have symptoms!


There are two types of tests for TB infection: the TB skin test and the TB blood (QuantiFERON®-TB Gold Plus) test. A person’s health care provider should choose which TB test to use. Factors in selecting which test to use include the reason for testing, test availability, and cost.



Both latent and active disease TB must be treated with a different regime/duration of antibiotics.


Through vigilant monitoring, proactive measures, and a united effort, we can collaboratively work towards the goal of eradicating TB in Malaysia. By staying informed, taking necessary precautions, and fostering a culture of health awareness, we can make significant progress in reducing TB cases and ultimately achieving a TB-free nation.


Together we can end Tuberculosis, consistent with the theme of World TB Day 2024 – ‘Yes! We can end TB!

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