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U.S. Tuberculosis Rates at All-Time Low

Drug-resistant strains still pose a threat to controlling the disease

FRIDAY, March 23 (HealthDay News) -- Although tuberculosis rates in the United States are at an all-time low, more strains are surfacing that are extensively drug-resistant, suggesting that the disease is still a significant challenge to treat and control, according to two studies in the March 23 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Researchers with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that there were 13,767 active cases in 2006, and the national tuberculosis rate was 4.6 per 100,000, an all-time low. Minorities and those born outside the United States were disproportionately affected; Asians were 21 times more likely than whites to become infected, while blacks and Hispanics were about eight times more likely to be infected.

Despite the overall decline, N. Sarita Shah, M.D., of Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, N.Y., and colleagues at the CDC report that there were 49 documented cases of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis reported in the United States from 1993 to 2006.

Although the number of cases as a proportion of all tuberculosis cases has remained stable at approximately 3 percent, such cases pose a serious threat, the authors write. "To prevent the spread of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis, renewed vigilance is needed through drug-susceptibility testing, case reporting, specialized care, infection control and expanded capacity for outbreak detection and response."

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