TB, until recently seen as a disease of the past, is on the increase, with an estimated 6,500 new cases by the end of 1993 compared with 5,086 in 1987.
The centre, set up by consultants at St Bartholomew's Hospital, the Royal London and the London Chest Hospital, will serve an area with one of the highest incidences of TB in Britain, due mainly to its large immigrant population and severe poverty.
In Tower Hamlets, for example, 50 people per 100,000 are infected - 10 times the national average. Dr Duncan Empey, of the East London Tuberculosis Centre, said everyone was at risk of coming into contact with the disease. The BCG vaccination, withdrawn by some health authorities, should be reinstated, he said.
Dr John Moore-Gillion, of the British Lung Foundation, said yesterday: 'We must act now to prevent the health disaster in New York from tuberculosis being repeated in London.'
New York and other US cities are experiencing a TB epidemic.