The first cases of a dangerous, highly drug-resistant form of tuberculosis among Myanmar migrants have been diagnosed in the Thai border town of Mae Sot, aid workers said Monday. "We had confirmation for two cases in Mae Sot," said Andres Romero of the charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
Romero, who heads MSF's TB programme in Mae Sot, said both men were migrants and both had disappeared before doctors received the test results confirming that they had extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis, known as XDR.
Hundreds of thousands of people in eastern Myanmar have been displaced by decades of fighting between the military government and ethnic rebels fighting for autonomy in their regions. Some live as refugees in Thailand in camps strung along the border, but many more are migrants who either cross back and forth or who take jobs in Thailand. Without addresses or telephones, providing follow-up treatment is difficult.
Treating a normal TB case takes up to nine months, but Romero said that MSF doctors in Mae Sot had no drugs to treat patients with XDR. "We cannot provide any treatment to them," he said. "It's quite new, and it's not available everywhere," Romero said of the drugs. A man in the United States caused a global health scare after he was diagnosed with XDR last month but travelled to Europe and Canada against doctors' advice.
The two Myanmar migrants' cases sparked no such clamour when they were diagnosed last week. The health system in military-ruled Myanmar has collapsed under decades of economic mismanagement, and the country has one of the world's highest rates of tuberculosis, with 97,000 new cases detected each year.