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Increase in Multi-Drug Resistant TB Presents Serious Challenges
Other new CDC research reports for the first time on the worldwide emergence of extensively drug-resistant (XDR) TB – or TB that is resistant to at least two main first-line drugs and additionally to three or more of the six classes of second-line drugs.2 From 2000 to 2004, 2 percent of TB patients whose isolates were tested in a survey of a worldwide laboratory network were classified as XDR TB. Over the five-year period in this survey, XDR TB increased from 5 percent of MDR TB cases in 2000 to 6.5 percent in 2004 (excluding South Korea). In the industrialized nations in this survey (including the United States), XDR TB increased from 3 percent of MDR TB cases in 2000 to 11 percent in 2004.
The emergence of XDR TB is cause for concern because it is widely distributed geographically, including in the United States, and renders patients virtually untreatable with available drugs.
Importantly, the emergence of MDR TB 15 years ago was a harbinger of a pandemic; this scenario must be prevented from happening with XDR TB.
Fears of 'extreme' TB strain
Health experts are to hold an emergency meeting in Johannesburg this week, following the discovery of a deadly new strain of tuberculosis.
The strain - known as extreme drug-resistant TB - has horrified World Health Organisation doctors. In one outbreak in South Africa, 52 of 53 patients died within weeks of becoming infected.
'This new strain leaves us facing a nightmare,' said Paul Nunn, coordinator of the WHO's drug-resistance unit. 'It is resistant to nearly every drug in our arsenal. We are now on the threshold of the appearance of a strain of TB that is resistant to every medicine known to science.'
The strain was originally discovered by scientists earlier this year. They looked at cases of multiple drug-resistant TB - which has developed over the past decade in many parts of the world - and discovered that among these a worrying new 'extreme' strain had evolved.