Politicians have warned the Mayor of London to do more to solve the problem of tuberculosis in east London.

Newham has the highest TB rates in the country, but a new survey commissioned by the London Assembly health committee found that one in five Londoners did not even know what symptoms to look out for .

The report suggested a lack of an outreach group to help people understand and combat the disease was part of the problem.

“Outreach services can reduce the burden on hospital services and GPs. However, outreach is not universally available in all parts of London.

Newham , which has the highest TB rates in the country, does not currently have an outreach team. In contrast, neighbouring Hackney has successfully reduced its TB caseload significantly through partnerships between its hospital services and outreach teams.”

More than half of respondents in the London-wide survey thought TB was transmitted through spitting, which is untrue, while 17% thought that TB can be transmitted through unprotected sex.

What are the symptoms of TBand how it is spread

The survey also found many people would not seek diagnosis and treatment even when they were very unwell, increasing the chances of infection.

The committee recommended Mayor Boris Johnson set up a programme to educate the public about how TB is spread and its symptoms.

The report said: “Local authorities told us they are increasingly feeling the pressure. Newham, has called on the mayor to champion TB in [this month’s Government] Spending Review.”

Chairman of the health committee Dr Onkar Sahota said: “It is astounding that TB is such a prevalent disease in London and that misconceptions about the disease are so common.

“If we don’t get a grip on London’s TB situation now, the harder and more expensive it will be to tackle in the years to come. We can’t afford to take our eye off the ball.”