(Copenhagen) After two decades of uninterrupted decline, the number of deaths from tuberculosis is rising in Europe, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Friday.

In 2021, the lung disease killed 27,300 Europeans, up from 27,000 the previous year, according to its latest available data. With some 4,900 and 3,600 estimated deaths respectively, Russia and Ukraine are the most affected countries.

A figure on the rise according to the WHO due to a relaxation of diagnoses during the confinements linked to COVID-19 as well as the spread of tuberculosis resistant to an antibiotic indicated against the disease.

This is the first time in twenty years that the downward trend has reversed, according to the WHO.

Across the 53 countries in the WHO Europe zone which also covers Central Asia, some 230,000 people have contracted tuberculosis, caused by a bacterium that mainly attacks the lungs – a total that remains down from compared to previous years.

“The increase in TB deaths we are seeing in 2021 is most likely the result of delayed or missed TB diagnosis due to disruption of services […] during the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19,” WHO Europe told AFP.

In addition, the prevalence of drug-resistant tuberculosis has also increased significantly, with one in three cases of rifampicin-resistant tuberculosis in 2021.

Globally, the WHO was already concerned in October about the increase, again for the first time in more than twenty years, in new cases of tuberculosis in the world in 2021.

Some 10.6 million people developed the disease on the planet that year, according to his data.