Tuesday, March 25, 2014

World TB Day

 450,000 people per year worldwide who are infected with a dangerous, mutated version of one of the world's deadliest illnesses. TB kills 1.3 million people per year - more than any other infectious disease apart from HIV/AIDS.

In some countries more than 20 percent of new cases and 50 percent of previously treated cases are Multi Drug Resistant (MDR). But large numbers of people are infected with resistant strains around the world, including 64,000 people in India and 59,000 in China. In 2012, 170,000 people died from MDR TB, according to the WHO.  According to the WHO, fewer than one-third of MDR TB patients worldwide are accurately diagnosed, leading to delays in treatment that can be fatal, and that encourage the spread of the disease.

 "Wrong prescriptions, incomplete regimens, not using the quality drugs necessary, not following patients to make sure they take all the drugs, all of these things are conducive to drug resistance"  said Mario Raviglione, director of the Global Tuberculosis Programme at the WHO. "And if there is no infection control in place, if people are poor and live in congested housing, then the resistant strains spread from person to person. That's what the disaster is about."

With globalisation, the contagious airborne disease could affect anybody.

A new rapid molecular test that identifies resistance to one of the main TB drugs, rifampicin, can reduce diagnosis times for MDR TB from weeks to hours, and offers "a lot of hope", says Bertie Squire, of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. But the "GeneXpert" machine is expensive to use and needs a stable electricity supply. "It can be difficult to implement in post-conflict or poor countries," 

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