The Return of the White Plague

The Return of the White Plague:Global Poverty and the “New” Tuberculosis

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A global health catastrophe threatens to undermine all efforts to eradicate poverty and human suffering

The dramatic increase since the 1980s in the global prevalence of tuberculosis, a disease destined as recently as thirty years ago for complete eradication, is a story of medical failure. A pandemic whose geography defies simple categorization, it ranges from schools in the UK to prisons in Russia, from refugee camps in central Africa to affluent suburbs in North America. The ‘new’ tuberculosis is derived from a combination of different developments such as collapsing health-care services, shifting patterns of poverty and inequality, the spread of HIV, and the emergence of virulent drug-resistant strains.
This collection provides an international survey of current thought on the spread and control of tuberculosis, covering historical, social, political, and medical aspects. While the contributors may differ in their opinions over specific treatments or research methodology, all are agreed on the overriding thesis of the book – that the resurgence of disease is one of the most telling indictments of the failure of global political and economic institutions to improve the lives of ordinary people.


  • Resurgent TB is one of the nightmare faces of world poverty, a scourge whose principal vector is economic neoliberalism. But, as this brilliant and profoundly disturbing study makes clear, it will inevitably become a death sentence for the rich as well as the poor.

    Mike Davis
  • ... A very impressive collection that provides cross-national perspectives on the causes and consequences of the re-emergence of tuberculosis as a major public health problem ... Essential reading for students, academics, medical personnel and health policy makers interested in the problem of TB and other modern plagues.

    Michael Worboys
  • It is estimated that between 2002 and 2020, approximately 1,000 million people will be newly infected, over 150 million people will get sick, and 36 million people will die of TB.

    World Health Organization