Tuberculosis Fears Rise with Untreatable Strain Confirmed in India

The decline in drug effectiveness in treating TB is generating new fears as researchers identify a new strain of the killer disease which does not respond to any drug treatment.

It is a hallmark of TB that the bacteria causing it can develop into a new strain which is resistant to the majority of the antibiotics developed to treat it.  At one time a worldwide and common health problem numbers of sufferers from the illness declined in the first part of the 20th century due to the discovery of effective antibiotic medication and higher living standards.  TB cases declined drastically but it did remain a significant problem particularly in areas with a higher level of poverty.

Drug Resistant Tuberculosis in India

The strain identified in India is the latest but not the first to be found to be antibiotic resistant as several of these cases have been reported since the early part of this century notably in Iran and Italy.  However it is suspected that there have been more untreatable cases that have never been documented.

Generally TB is a complaint that is mostly curable when drugs are prescribed over a period of months. The infection is caused by a bacteria which attacks the lungs.  It is passed by interpersonal contact and though an obstinate illness to treat, it has responded well in the past to specific drugs.  However the ability of the disease to mutate and become resistant to those drugs has been an increasing concern of World health bodies that has now resulted in what has been reported by Indian doctors as “totally drug-resistant tuberculosis”.

Writing in a US medical publication, the doctors from P.D. Hinduja National Hospital and Medical Research Center outlined the characteristics of the particular strain which had been treated with 12 different medications without success.  A TB specialist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that this pointed to an infection which had mutated and become untreatable with the drugs available.  Although the signature of the particular strain of the disease showed that it was not an airborne form but caused by ineffectual treatment concern was also expressed that urgency was needed to deal with this problem before it begins to spread.

TB Treatment Failure

Further information from India detailed a significant number of patients whose TB failed to respond to treatment in the early stages or in long-term treatments with number of medicines over the next few years.  These patients remain infected.

One issue is that there is a history of private medical practitioners in that continent who are not clinically experienced in the treatment of TB.  This can lead to patients receiving incorrect drugs and treatment plans.  The danger being that this encourages TB mutations and drug resistance.  TB is more prevalent in areas affected by poverty and the cost of treatment is often a factor in the quality of the treatment and the drugs prescribed.

[box type=”important”]Information from the W.H.O is not clear as although WHO’s Stop TB Department in Geneva agree that there is good evidence that these virtually untreatable cases do exist the WHO have not acknowledged the fact and prefer to label the infections as ‘extensively drug-resistant TB, or XDR’[/box]

Claire Al-Aufi

Claire Al-Aufi is a contributing author for Hive Health Media who provides updates on health and fitness news.

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