Scientists, activists and global health agencies have this year used World Tuberculosis day today to draw attention to the growing threat of drug-resistant strains of the deadly disease.
SA has the world’s third largest TB epidemic, which has been heightened by the country’s HIV epidemic. It also has a large number of people infected with strains of TB that can withstand most drugs, and a growing number of people with totally drug resistant TB, for which there is no cure. Almost 406 000 TB cases were identified in SA in 2009, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
"As we look for drug-resistant TB, we find more of it," said Prof Gavin Churchyard, CEO of the Aurum Institute and co-author of a hard-hitting report on the problem published today by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) and the US Institute of Medicine. The report notes that an increasing number of South Africans are getting infected with drug-resistant TB due to transmission from other patients: in the past, most patients acquired drug-resistant strains if they failed to finish their treatment with the standard six month combination of rifampicinand isoniazid.
Prof Churchyard said the rising number of children with drug-resistant TB was of grave concern.
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