Extensively Drug-resistant Tuberculosis (XDR TB)

Posted on May 24, 2007  Comments (2)

Superbug poses dire threat to Africa

The journey to Dr. Moll’s terrifying discovery began in early 2005, when he noticed something peculiar. The staff at his hospital had become accustomed to the marvellous “Lazarus effect” of anti-retroviral treatment for AIDS: seeing desperately sick people quickly start gaining weight and return home or go back to work. But now, in his ward, he had two men in their 30s on ARVs whose HIV infections were suppressed to undetectable levels. Yet their TB, which would normally have cleared up in a matter of weeks, kept getting worse.

He suspected multidrug-resistant TB, or MDR, believed at the time to be as bad as the disease could get. So he collected sputum from 45 patients and sent it off to a lab in Durban for cell culturing. (The only way to tell if a TB strain is drug-resistant is to grow cultures from a patient sample, zap it with the different drugs and see which, if any, fail to kill it.) The process takes six to eight weeks. “In that time, we more or less forgot about it,” Dr. Moll said. One of his two young men died.

But the phone call from the lab, when it eventually came, slammed the issue to the top of their agenda: Of the 45 samples, 10 were indeed drug-resistant. But they weren’t resistant to just one or two of the drugs used against TB. They were resistant to all six medications available for use in Tugela Ferry. In other words, there was nothing to cure that TB at all.

As we have discussed previously, antibiotic resistance is a huge problem today and especially looming in the future. Perhaps we will find new fantanstic cures but the failure to take sensible action puts us at great risk.

Related: Deadly TB Strain is Spreading, WHO WarnsCDC Urges Increased Effort to Reduce Drug-Resistant InfectionsEntirely New Antibiotic Developed

2 Responses to “Extensively Drug-resistant Tuberculosis (XDR TB)”

  1. CuriousCat: 'Virtually untreatable' TB found
    June 3rd, 2007 @ 10:51 am

    […] TB presently causes about 1.7 million deaths a year worldwide, but researchers are worried about the emergence of strains that are resistant to drugs. Drug resistance is caused by poor TB control, through taking the wrong types of drugs for the incorrect duration. […]

  2. CuriousCat: Tuberculosis Risk
    June 3rd, 2007 @ 12:06 pm

    The risks are well known, given the extreme mobility in the world today, for TB, and other communicable diseases, becoming more troublesome, costly and deadly – often due to improper antibiotic use. But we continue to avoid giving this risk near the level of attention it seems to deserve…

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