The WHO just released its 2010 report on multidrug and extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (M/XDR-TB) surveillance and response, providing the latest information on the status of this global epidemic.
The alarming news from this report is that in some areas of the world, one in four people who were infected with tuberculosis became ill with a form of the disease that can no longer be treated with standard drug regimens. A region in Russia reported that 28% of those diagnosed with TB had the multidrug-resistant form – the highest level ever reported to WHO.
As background, multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is difficult and expensive to treat, frequently failing to respond to standard first-line drugs. Extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) is a deadlier strain, resistant to even more of the existing tuberculosis treatment.
Of the estimated 9.4 million new TB cases in 2008, approximately 440,000 were MDR-TB, and a third of those infected with this form died. It is estimated that 69,000 cases of MDR-TB occurred in Africa, with the vast majority going undiagnosed due partly to limited labratory capacity. There are no official estimated on the number of XDR-TB cases, but the WHO still suggests it may be around 25,000 annually with most cases being fatal. 58 countries have reported at least one case of XDR-TB since 2006.
Strong tuberculosis programs can have a significant impact on reducing MDR-TB rates, as seen in countries like Estonia, Latvia, the U.S. and China, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Additionally, new technologies that can cut the diagnosis time to two days from up to four months, offer hope in the fight against TB.
As we observe World TB Day 2010, it’s important to reflect on the progress being made in combating this disease (36 million people have been cured of tuberculosis in the last fifteen years), while acknowledging the challenges that remain, particularly in the growing area of drug resistance.
You can download the full report here.