A new study has provided evidence about the spread of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR TB) from person-to-person in the KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa from 2011-2014.
The study was conducted by a research team from Emory University, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. It was funded by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.
Person-to-person transmission is driving the spread of drug-resistant tuberculosis based on the growing evidence.
"These findings provide insight as to why this epidemic continues despite interventions to improve TB treatment over the past decade. Public health and research efforts must focus more intensely on identifying and implementing additional or new interventions that halt transmission in hospitals and community settings," says Neel R. Gandhi, MD, associate professor of epidemiology at Emory's Rollins School of Public Health.
The study included 404 XDR TB patients in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa and was led by a team of researchers including Gandhi and Sarita Shah, MD, MPH, of of CDC's Division of Global HIV & TB. Researchers examined the role of transmission by combining robust genotyping methods with social network and epidemiologic analysis. The study is the first of its kind, bringing together these multiple state-of-the-art methods to study XDR TB transmission in a high-incidence setting.
"These findings are further proof that we need to better detect, prevent, diagnose, and treat drug-resistant TB," says CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. "TB resistant to last-resort drugs is spreading through hospitals and homes, at work, and in other places in this high burden community. The only way to stop this disease is by improving infection control and rapidly finding and effectively treating people with TB."
What is XDR TB?
Drug-resistant TB is a significant global epidemic. Reported in 105 countries, XDR TB is resistant to at least four of the key anti-TB drugs. In most settings, treatment is effective less than 40 percent of the time, with death rates as high as 80 percent for patients who also have HIV.
Interrupting the spread of TB can be particularly challenging in countries most affected by the disease. In settings with limited resources, measures to prevent the spread of TB such as contact tracing, implementation of effective infection control measures, improved ventilation in hospitals and better training for healthcare workers, can be difficult.
Study authors suggest that breaking the cycle of transmission of drug-resistant TB requires a greater focus on infection control efforts - while also maintaining global programs to quickly detect and effectively treat all people with TB.