There has been an almost 11 percent rise in the number of tuberculosis cases in Britain, mainly among the Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, latest official figures reveal.
The largest increase was among patients who were born outside Britain - from 4,696 in 2004 to 5,310 in 2005, figures from the Health Protection Agency showed.
John Watson, head of the Respiratory Diseases Department at the Agency, said: "The largest increase was seen amongst patients who weren't born in Britain, from 4,696 reported in 2004 to 5,310 in 2005. However, only 22 percent of these non-UK born patients in 2005 arrived in Britain during the past two years.
"This suggests that the increase is not a result of a large number of individuals arriving recently with TB but rather a combination of TB disease developing in individuals who may have been infected for some time and new infections acquired in Britain, or as a result of travel to other countries where TB is common. Levels of TB in Britain-born population remain stable."
The Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic group made up the highest proportion of cases reported in 2005 (3,075 cases compared to 2,574 in 2004) followed by Black African (1,932 cases compared to 1,766 to 2004) and White (1,721 in 2005 compared to 1,729 in 2004), the figures revealed.
John Moore-Gillon, the chairman of the British Thoracic Society Joint TB Committee and president of the British Lung Foundation, said the 19th century disease was now a growing threat.
"The situation is now very urgent. We need to confront the problem and ensure that enough resources are made available to tackle the increasing burden of TB in Britain. At present, we have areas of the country where TB is especially common, but TB specialist nurse posts are being left vacant or downgraded to save money and there is talk of reducing the number of centres in London offering expert care."