- BOSTON (Reuters) - Drug-resistant tuberculosis is present almost everywhere
in the world and the problem is likely to get worse, researchers said in
Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.
- Tuberculosis bacteria slowly eat away
lung tissue. There has been a resurgence in TB, in part because it can
fester in people whose immune systems have been crippled by the AIDS virus.
Only long-term treatment can cure tuberculosis or keep the disease at bay.
But when the treatment ends prematurely, the bacteria learn to shrug off
- To see how common the drug-resistant
strains have become, a team of researchers led by Dr. Ariel Pablos-Mendez
of the World Health Organization in Geneva used data from about 20,000
people in 35 countries.
- On average, they found that among patients
who had been treated for TB in the past, 36 percent had developed a strain
that was resistant to at least one drug. Among patients with no prior treatment,
nearly 10 percent had drug-resistant strains. ``The findings should be
of great concern to all those who seek to decrease the global burden of
tuberculosis,'' Drs. Dixie E. Snider Jr. and Kenneth G. Castro of the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention said in an editorial in the journal.
``The results of the study suggest that there is a serious threat to global
tuberculosis-control efforts, and the findings should be interpreted as
a call to action to reduce this threat,'' they said.
- Many countries do not have efficient
TB-control programs and are unable to afford the drugs needed to treat
resistant cases. Thus ``the stage is being set for a substantial increase
in the incidence of drug-resistant tuberculosis in many countries,'' Snider
and Castro warned.
- The percentage of patients whose TB was
found to be resistant to at least one drug was 12 percent in the United
tates, 7 percent in England and Wales, and 20 percent or more in Russia,
Vietnam, Thailand, Sierra Leone, Latvia, Estonia, the Dominican Republic
- Canada, Mexico, Germany and Australia
were among the countries not surveyed in the study.