Asset Publisher


New Global TB Dictionary Aims to Standardize Terminology in Tuberculosis Research

A diverse group of researchers, public health officials and TB survivors worked together to create a consensus TB Dictionary


In the ongoing fight against tuberculosis (TB), a newly launched Global TB Dictionary aims to provide a common language for researchers, policymakers, funders and affected communities. Developed through a systematic approach and guided by evidence and expert review, the dictionary aims to unify TB-related terminology and promote clearer communication in the field.

Tuberculosis remains a major global challenge, causing an estimated number of 10.6 million new disease episodes and 1.3 million TB-related deaths in 2022 alone. Scientific output on TB has grown exponentially since the 1990s. Advances in research and treatment have broadened the understanding of the TB spectrum from exposure to infection to disease, challenging long-held concepts and introducing new terminology for use in research and control efforts.

The need for a standardised TB lexicon is evident in the evolving landscape of TB research, where new discoveries and evolving concepts are constantly reshaping our understanding of the disease. Terms such as “subclinical TB”, “incipient TB”, and even “tuberculosis” itself have been used ambiguously, prompting some professionals to advocate for clearer terminology. Similarly, case definitions for paediatric TB have undergone several revisions, contributing to inconsistencies in reporting and analysis.

Unifying terms and definitions through a consensus process

To address these challenges, a diverse group of researchers, public health officials and TB survivors worked together to create the first edition of the Global TB Dictionary. The development process, led by ISGlobal, involved a comprehensive review of TB-related literature, including publications from the Global TB Programme (WHO), the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States. In addition, a systematic search of PubMed was conducted to identify articles discussing TB terms and concepts or containing glossaries. Expert input from a panel of TB experts ensured the inclusion of relevant terms and definitions.

The glossary underwent multiple review iterations, with terms and definitions assessed by multiple reviewers to ensure accuracy and coherence. Extensive discussion within the editorial team resolved discrepancies and ensured alignment with current scientific knowledge and non-stigmatising language. 

Furthermore, individuals affected by tuberculosis have also been included in developing the dictionary, "ensuring that the language used in the dictionary is widely accepted and appropriate for all individuals in the TB community. The participation of patients not only ensured the inclusivity of the language used in the dictionary but also provided valuable insight into how the disease affects their lives," emphasized Joanna Ehrlich, project manager at ISGlobal and coordinator of the dictionary.

The dictionary aims to include regular updates to reflect advances in TB research and the inclusion of new terms suggested by the TB community. Users can access the document online and contribute suggestions for future editions, ensuring that it remains a dynamic and evolving resource.

"We hope that this open-access glossary will be a useful resource that allows the community of TB researchers, policymakers, funders and people affected by TB to unite around a common understanding of TB-related vocabulary," said Alberto García-Basteiro, ISGlobal researcher and co-editor of the TB dictionary's together with Prof Marcel Behr from Mcgill University, in Canada.

The development of the Global TB Dictionary is a step towards improving communication and collaboration in TB research and control efforts. By providing a common reference point, the dictionary facilitates clearer communication among stakeholders and improves the overall coherence of TB-related discourse.

Access the dictionary:

Read the commentary in The Lancet Global Health here.