Web Zap*Germs Archive

September 20, 2004

Multiple-Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis Spreading Worldwide

According to the latest research, hardy strains of tuberculosis (TB) are on the verge of becoming a global epidemic. TB infects an estimated 8.7 million people a year and kills 2 million a year despite widespread control efforts. The new issue of the journal Nature Medicine reports that the practice of treating patients whose TB is easily defeated with antibiotics is not a winning strategy, as it encourages the mutant strains to survive and flourish. Recently developed mathematical models show it would be easy for multi-drug-resistant TB to outcompete other strains and spread.

UPDATE: Today WHO, at a conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, said that the spread of HIV is contributing to a tuberculosis crisis that could lead to one billion infected, and 35 million dead, worldwide over the next 20 years. (Many people suffering from HIV/AIDS contract TB.) According to an AP report:

"The 'deadly interaction' of TB and HIV threatens to evolve into a global public health crisis and called [sic] for urgent action to stop the co-epidemic, said Mario Raviglione, head of the WHO fight against TB. The danger is compounded by the appearance of drug-resistant TB strains."


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