Among communicable diseases, tuberculosis is the second leading cause of death worldwide, killing nearly 2 million people each year. Most cases are in less-developed countries; over the past decade, tuberculosis incidence has increased in Africa, mainly as a result of the burden of HIV infection, and in the former Soviet Union, owing to socioeconomic change and decline of the health-care system. Definitive diagnosis of tuberculosis remains based on culture for Mycobacterium tuberculosis, but rapid diagnosis of infectious tuberculosis by simple sputum smear for acid-fast bacilli remains an important tool, and more rapid molecular techniques hold promise. Treatment with several drugs for 6 months or more can cure more than 95% of patients; direct observation of treatment, a component of the recommended five-element DOTS strategy, is judged to be the standard of care by most authorities, but currently only a third of cases worldwide are treated under this approach. Systematic monitoring of case detection and treatment outcomes is essential to effective service delivery. The proportion of patients diagnosed and treated effectively has increased greatly over the past decade but is still far short of global targets. Efforts to develop more effective tuberculosis vaccines are under way, but even if one is identified, more effective treatment systems are likely to be required for decades. Other modes of tuberculosis control, such as treatment of latent infection, have a potentially important role in some contexts. Until tuberculosis is controlled worldwide, it will continue to be a major killer in less-developed countries and a constant threat in most of the more-developed countries.