| Updated at: 0913 PST, Saturday, December 18, 2010|
LONDON: London has become the "tuberculosis capital of Europe" due largely to immigration, according to a paper published in The Lancet.
Britain is now the only Western European country with rising rates of tuberculosis, according to the paper, with more than 9,000 cases now diagnosed annually.
Four in 10 cases are diagnosed within London, with cases rising by nearly 50 per cent since 1999, from 2,309 to 3,450.
Doctors suspect these numbers underestimate the true extent of the problem by almost a third.
"Victorian" living conditions among migrants are behind the rise, said Prof Alimuddin Zumla of University College London, a tuberculosis expert.
Prolonged, close contact with a person with "active" TB is generally required for infection to occur.
Prof Zumla wrote: "The increase in the number of tuberculosis cases in the UK has largely been in non-UK born groups; in 2009, these were black African (28 per cent), Indian (27 per cent), and white (10 per cent)."
But it appears many people are now becoming infected here, rather than bringing it in from their countries of origin.
"Interestingly many of these cases were not in new migrants; 85 per cent of individuals born overseas had lived in the UK for two or more years," he said.
Tuberculosis was "common in London boroughs that are relatively deprived", he noted.
"Poor housing, inadequate ventilation, and overcrowding —conditions prevalent in Victorian Britain —are causes of the higher tuberculosis incidence rates in certain London boroughs."
Tuberculosis was known as "the white plague" during Victorian times, as it causes a deathly pallor in its sufferers.
The disease is caused by a bacterial infection, usually of the lungs.
Most people fight off the infection without experiencing symptoms.
Some people - more frequently those in poor health and newborn babies - develop "active" tuberculosis.
Symptoms range from the minor, such as a persistent hacking cough, to breathlessness, joint pain and even meningitis. Tuberculosis causes three million deaths a year worldwide.