Funds and treatment urged for drug-resistant tuberculosis, WHO says

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Drug-resistant tuberculosis accounts for about 440,000 cases and 150,000 deaths worldwide each year. In a report released Wednesday, the World Health Organization urges better diagnosis and more funding for treatment of the drug-resistant disease that’s harder to cure.

Tuberculosis, or TB, is passed person to person via airborne germs like the common cold -- and the drug-resistant forms are no exception. WHO identifies 27 countries with the highest number of such cases, including Bangladesh, China, the Philippines, the Russian Federation and South Africa.

“While drug-resistant TB is generally treatable, it requires extensive chemotherapy (up to two years of treatment) with second-line anti-TB drugs which are more costly than first-line drugs, and which produce adverse drug reactions that are more severe, though manageable,” a statement about the report says. Check out the entire report: “Towards universal access to diagnosis and treatment of multi-drug-resistant and extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis by 2015.”


The biggest problem, the report says, is transmission of drug-resistant TB by those who are undiagnosed and therefore spreading it.

Doctors Without Borders documents its success in treating the disease in Khayelitsha, South Africa, by using new and quicker detection methods. The report says:

“A new automated molecular test for TB has the potential to get patients on treatment sooner by reducing diagnostic time from 6-8 weeks in a specialized laboratory, to two hours at clinic level,” the group reports. “With increased numbers of people being diagnosed and requiring treatment, new demands will require donor commitments to the purchase of TB medicines, and a competitive drug production market to reduce prices.”

All of this research comes just in time for World TB Day on Thursday.