Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Drug Resistant TB on the Rise

Bird flu gets all the attention, but drug resistant TB scares me. The report doesn't include TB cases from Africa because the public health infrastructure isn't robust enough to reliably report treatment statistics, so if the World Health Organization's suggestion that those with HIV are even more suspectible to drug resistant TB, then this may just be the tip of the iceberg.

Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) has been recorded at the highest rates ever, according to a new report published today. The report presents findings from the largest survey to date on the scale of drug resistance in tuberculosis.

The report, "Anti-tuberculosis drug resistance in the world" |PDF|, is based on data collected between 2002 and 2006 on 90 000 TB patients in 81 countries. It found that extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB), a virtually untreatable form of the respiratory disease, has been recorded in 45 countries.

The report also found a link between HIV infection and MDR-TB. Surveys in Latvia and Ukraine found nearly twice the level of MDR-TB among TB patients living with HIV compared with patients without HIV.

Based on the analysis of the survey data, WHO estimates there are nearly half a million new cases of MDR-TB a year, which is about 5% of nine million new TB cases of all types. The highest rate was recorded in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, where nearly a quarter of all new TB cases (22.3%) were reported as multidrug-resistant. |WHO|

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