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Multidrug-Resistant TB Growing at Faster Pace

Measures needed to prevent emergence of fatal variant in HIV-infected populations, study says

FRIDAY, Dec. 15, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- An international epidemic of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis may be more widespread than previously thought, says an article in this week's issue of The Lancet.

Multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) is able to withstand treatment with the two most potent anti-TB drugs, isoniazid and rifampicin.

In this study, World Health Organization researchers identified multidrug-resistant TB in all 79 countries they surveyed. Of the 424,000 new cases of multidrug-resistant TB in 2004, more than half occurred in China, India and Russia.

The overall median prevalence of multidrug-resistant disease in new cases of TB was 1 percent. In eight countries, including Kazakhstan and Latvia, the prevalence was 6.5 percent.

Increasing rates of multidrug-resistant disease were identified in Botswana and Tomsk Oblast in Russia, while decreasing rates were seen in the Cuba, Hong Kong and the United States.

"MDR-TB is a precursor to XDR-TB [extensive drug-resistant tuberculosis], recently reported among HIV-infected people in South Africa," wrote study author Mario Raviglione. He said the study findings "emphasize the importance of implementing sound tuberculosis control activities to prevent further creation of MDR tuberculosis and the necessity of mainstreaming high-quality treatment for MDR tuberculosis into routine tuberculosis control programs. Otherwise, XDR-TB is bound to keep emerging as a fatal variant of TB, especially in high HIV-prevalence settings."

About 8.9 million people around the world develop TB each year. In 2004, TB killed 1.7 million people.

More information

The American Lung Association has more about tuberculosis.

SOURCE: The Lancet, news release, Dec. 14, 2006
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