The World Health Organization has set up a global task force to deal with outbreaks of “Extensively Drug Resistant Tuberculosis,” also known as XDR-TB.
Dr. Mario Raviglione, the director of the Stop TB Department of the World Health Organization, is currently in Pretoria, South Africa attending a conference on XDR-TB. He told VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua that the focus of the meeting was on XDR-TB outbreaks in southern Africa. The meeting includes representatives from SADC, the Southern Africa Development Community.
Asked whether southern Africa was the epicenter of the outbreaks, he says, “Not really. We are aware of the presence of XDR-TB in all continents and…we know there are very high levels in Eastern Europe, for instance, in Latvia and Estonia. We suspect it has high levels also in some other parts of the world, including the former Soviet Union countries and perhaps China and in South Africa in the province of KwaZulu-Natal.”
The WHO’s global task force on XDR-TB met for the first time last week. Dr. Raviglione says that it met on a number of technical issues that had to be faced “on a global scale.” He says, “We discussed issues related to surveillance, what needs to be done now to have a clear understanding of the extent of the spread of this particular strain of tuberculosis. Second, to discuss issues related to infection control in hospitals…to discuss the diagnostic options. What do we do when we have a suspicion of an XDR-TB (case), which needs confirmation that may take several weeks?”
Is he confident this form of TB can be contained? The WHO official says, “I’m very confident it can be contained. But only on the condition that the countries that are affected by this type of situation strengthen in a very intensive way…the strategies of doing TB control.”