DRUG RESISTANT TUBERCULOSIS THREAT

I saw in an article today in USA Today, a man with drug-resistant TB decided to take a trip a couple of weeks ago and now at least two countries are scrambling to locate people who might have traveled near him. Health officials want to alert those individuals that they may have come in contact with a drug resistant type of TB, called XDR-TB, which stands for Extensively Drug Resistant Tuberculosis. The man is now in quarantine in a hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, but authorities in the United States and Europe are trying to contact everyone who could have been close enough to be affected by the virus.

What is XDR-TB?
XDR-TB is a type of tuberculosis that is extremely resistant to most effective anti-TB drugs and to some of the second-tier drugs as well. Its resistance makes the bacteria very hard to fight. The World Health Organization says that, even in countries with good TB programs, a cure is possible in only 30% of cases.

How is normal TB treated?
Regular TB is treated with a drug regimen that lasts 18 – 24 months. The patient begins with four antibiotics for eight weeks. If the patient responds well, the treatment is often reduced to two drugs for up to seven more months.

How is TB spread?
TB is a bacterium that can be spread through the air when someone coughs, sneezes, or simply talks. It is not as contagious as the flu but only a small number of germs need to be inhaled for another person to become infected. Most infections remain dormant in a healthy person and may never become the disease unless the immune system becomes weak.

What are the symptoms of TB?
Symptoms include a cough with thick, cloudy mucus for more than two weeks, fever, chills, night sweats, weight loss, fatigue and muscle weakness and shortness of breath.

Another article in USA Today states, “This form of TB is rare. Only 49 cases were reported in the United States between 1993 and 2006; 17 have been diagnosed since 2000. By contrast, the nation reported 13,767 ordinary TB cases last year alone, an all-time low.”

Finally, on MSNBC, Julie Gerberding, Director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention is quoted as saying “Is the patient himself highly infectious? Fortunately, in this case, he’s probably not. But the other piece is this bacteria is a very deadly bacteria. We just have to err on the side of caution.”

frank