Far greater efforts should be made to stop the spread of TB as about
420,000 of the estimated 8.8 million new cases of tuberculosis in the
world were resistant to many standard anti-tuberculosis drugs, said a
On average, a patient infected with drug-resistant TB in 2004 is found
to show more resistant to drugs than a similar patient with that
diagnosis in 1994, according to Dr Paul P Nunn, a TB expert with WHO.
``It may reach a point we will have take a great effort to stop the
spread of infection,'' he said at a news conference early this month.
The news conference was prompted by Andrew Speaker, an Atlanta-based
man with extremely drug-resistant tuberculosis. Speaker flew in
commercial flights for his wedding in Greece and honeymoon in Europe
setting off an international health scare.
Speaker's is not an isolated case. Drug resistant TB has been reported
from 37 countries this year. With the tremendous growth in
international air travel, TB experts say: ``TB anywhere is TB
Coughing, sneezing, singing and many other such activity can easily
spread tuberculosis bacteria through air. Anyone can become infected,
but prolonged exposure is usually required.
``About 30,000 out of the 420,000 cases, are extremely drug resistant.
This means they are resistant to first line and a number of second
line drugs,'' according to a recent interview of Dr Mario C
Raviglione, director of WHO's tuberculosis department.
This has prompted WHO to undertake statistical modelling studies to
estimate how prevalent the drug-resistant tuberculosis might become.
The study is yet to be published as the outcome depended on a number
``In impoverished countries with poor public health systems lacking in
laboratory facilities, the drug resistant tuberculosis could replace
standard TB,' Raviglione warned. In these places, the data on number
and proportion of TB cases susceptible and resistant to drugs would
not be available. Besides, the patients themselves may not know they
have the disease.
Africa, where AIDS patients often get tuberculosis, tops the list.
China, Eastern Europe and India are also major concerns. The
Governments have the responsibility to take special efforts to stop
the spread of drug-resistant tuberculosis.