‘Totally drug-resistant’ tuberculosis spreads in South Africa as researchers warn global outbreak would be ‘untreatable’

 

National Post Staff | Feb 12, 2013 3:34 PM ET | Last Updated: Feb 12, 2013 4:19 PM ET
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In South Africa, researchers are attempting to isolate a new strain of tuberculosis they say resists all drug interventions, in an attempt to halt its spread and better understand how it obtains its virulence.

Schalk van Zuydam/AP PhotoIn South Africa, researchers are attempting to isolate a new strain of tuberculosis they say resists all drug interventions, in an attempt to halt its spread and better understand how it obtains its virulence.

The world is facing outbreaks of “totally drug-resistant” tuberculosis if explosions of the bacteria in South Africa and other poorer nations are not addressed, according to a new papers published in Emerging Infectious Diseases. At this point, researchers are working to determine how the bacteria gains its invincibility, and how to isolate it.

Fears are mounting in medical communities worldwide that conventional treatments would be useless against the new diseaseThe Daily Mail‘s health site reports. They say doctors are warning “the world is on the brink of an outbreak of a deadly and ‘virtually untreatable’ strain of drug resistant tuberculosis unless immediate action is taken.” Fears of a repeat of the 1980s outbreak in New York City that killed 90% of the people who contracted the TB strain are being cited by those urging action in poorer countries where the disease is spiralling out of control.

Antibiotic-resistant ‘apocalypse’ looms as infections grow stronger: top U.K. doctor

A dire warning of the coming dangers of a world without functioning antibiotics has been levelled by professor Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer of England.

Routine operations may in the near future become life-threatening ordeals without the protection of antibiotics to ward off increasingly powerful hospital borne bacteria, Davies told a committee of British MPs.

“It is clear that we might not ever see global warming,” she said. “The apocalyptic scenario is that when I need a new hip in 20 years I’ll die from a routine infection because we’ve run out of antibiotics.”

Researchers writing in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control journal warned in two new studies that the further outbreaks of drug resistant tuberculosis could devastate populations and economies of developing nations, particularly in the drug-resistant strain’s ground zero regions, such as in South Africa. Recent reports from 2012, however, drive home the importance of isolating drug-resistant TB, since the disease has also been popping up increasingly in wealthier Western cities such as London, where, of course, it can attack rich and poor indiscriminately.

One study, which is monitoring the high death rates among South African patients infected with the resistant TB and HIV, noted that: “Drug-resistant tuberculosis is a critical threat to TB control and global public health.”

Researchers are advocating the use of more specific screening tests so as to more easily isolate patients suffering from the virtually untreatable strain of TB

 

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