May 6 (UPI) -- New research Wednesday predicts a sharp rise in global cases of tuberculosis over the next five years, partly due to consequences from global restrictions that have been imposed to repel the coronavirus outbreak.
An analysis published by the Stop TB Partnership said lockdown measures will likely lead to as many as 6.3 million new tuberculosis cases between now and 2025 because many patients will go undiagnosed and untreated.
While COVID-19 restrictions may only last for a few months, the study says they could have a "lasting impact on TB in high-burden settings" by setting back TB diagnosis and treatment by as much as eight years. The research was performed in collaboration with Imperial College London, Avenir Health, Johns Hopkins University and USAID.
"The global response to COVID-19 has slowed the spread of the virus for now but is continuing to cause serious, short and longer term, disruptions to the programs for other major diseases," the group said in a seven-page report. "For [TB] in particular, lockdowns on society are already showing signs of severely curtailing diagnosis and notifications and potentially the availability of drugs."
In modeling the effects of the lockdowns on TB, the partnership took examples in India, Kenya and Ukraine and extrapolated them to the global level. It studied a pair of scenarios -- a two-month lockdown followed by a two-month restoration period and a three-month lockdown followed by a 10-month restoration.
Switzerland-based Stop TB determined there would be 1.8 million additional cases and 342,500 more deaths by 2025 under the two-month lockdown scenario. The three-month variant showed 6.3 million additional cases and 1.3 million more deaths.
To recover gains made in recent years, the study advises "ramped-up active case-finding" and intensive community engagement and contact tracing via digital technology and other tools.
"Securing access to an uninterrupted supply of quality assured treatment and care for every single person with TB will be essential," the report concludes.