Drug-resistant TB Spreads

MDR-TB map whoTuberculosis (TB) is a highly infectious bacterial disease caused by the pathogenic bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Its physiologys is highly aerobic and most common infection site are the lungs. In healthy people most infections cause no symptoms, since the immune system is a neat, sophisticated and adequate defence. The global TB death rate dropped by almost 50% since 1990.

So did we beat TB? How close to eradication are we?

We are far, very far from eradication! The prevalence of TB that is resistant to our antibiotics is increasing rapid and spreading fast. There have been urgent calls for new medications and more funding to deal with this mass killer.

  • Tuberculosis (TB) is second only to HIV/AIDS as the greatest killer worldwide due to a single infectious agent.  (source: Fact sheet N°104 WHO)
  • In 2012, 8.6 million people fell ill with TB and 1.3 million died from TB. (source: Fact sheet N°104 WHO)
When antibiotics stopped TB across Europe and the US we stopped being alarmed, we like to believe in magic bullets.  But now TB is back in an even more lethal form. Multi-drug resistant strains of the disease have evolved (learn more). Treatment of MDR-TB (multi-drug resistant TB) can take up to two years. According to Médecins Sans Frontières, MDR-TB is spreading at an alarming rate. The data are far from complete, but there seems to be a trend is:
The TB burden in South Afrika is one of the highest in the world. Médecins Sans Frontières has seen a 211 percent increase in TB diagnosis per month. Of those patients, 13.2% of the isolates were resistant to rifampicin.
In Uzbekistan 65% of patients treated in 2011 were diagnosed with MDR-TB. Of those patients, 30-40 percent had presented to the MSF clinic for the first time, indicating that their TB was not a resistant form recurring because of poor treatment – these had actually become infected with MDR-TB from somebody else. MSF says that proportion is “an unprecedented number globally”. Lack of regulations and over-the-counter drug sales in India are backfiring. It is estimated 99,000 people are infected with MDR-TB every year in the country. Most patients don not receive adequate treatment.

New shorter, more effective, tolerable and affordable regimens containing new drugs are needed to treat TB.

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