of superbug tuberculosis hampers global control efforts
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[March 23, 2017] By
London (Reuters) - Rising rates of superbug
tuberculosis (TB) are threatening to derail decades of progress against
the contagious disease, experts said on Thursday, and new drugs powerful
enough to treat them are few and far between.
TB kills more people each year than any other infectious disease,
including HIV and AIDS. In 2015 alone, it is estimated to have
killed 1.8 million people, according to the World Health
While some new antibiotics with the potential to treat some
drug-resistant strains are becoming available for the first time,
experts who conducted a global study said that without accurate
diagnostics, better case tracking and clear treatment guidelines,
their effectiveness could rapidly be lost.
"Resistance to anti-tuberculosis drugs is a global problem that
threatens to derail e˜fforts to eradicate the disease," said Keertan
Dheda, a University of Cape Town professor who co-led research
published in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine journal.
"Cure rates for drug resistant TB are poor and people can remain
TB is a bacterial infection normally treated with a combination of
antibiotics. But extensive overuse of antibiotics worldwide has led
to a rise in drug-resistant "superbug" strains. Bacteria can acquire
many drug resistance traits over time, making several types of
Some 1 in 5 cases of TB are now resistant to at least one major
anti-TB drug, the researchers found.
Around 1 in 20 are classed as multidrug-resistant (MDR) - meaning
they are resistant to two essential first-line TB drugs, isoniazid
and rifampicin - or extensively drug-resistant - meaning they are
also resistant to fluoroquinolones and second-line injectable drugs.
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Approximately half of global cases of MDR-TB are in India, China,
and Russia, but migration and international travel have allowed
these highly drug-resistant strains to emerge in almost every part
of the world.
In a commentary on TB in the same journal, David W Dowdy, a
specialist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the
United States, warned that over the next decade, "it is quite
possible that we will see a drug-resistant tuberculosis epidemic of
unprecedented global scale".
He added, however, that it might also be possible for the global
health community to bring about "an unprecedented reversal" of the
drug-resistant TB problem.
"The difference between these two outcomes lies less with the
pathogen and more with ... whether we have the political will to
prioritize," he said. "Drug-resistant TB is not standing still;
neither can we."
(Editing by Julia Glover)
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