News / Health

    Drug-Resistant TB Threatens Europe

    Selah Hennessy
    In wealthy regions of the world like Western Europe, the infectious disease tuberculosis often has been seen as a health problem of the past - a deadly bacterial illness, but one that can be cured with antibiotic treatment. Now health experts say drug-resistant tuberculosis is on the rise: the numbers in Britain increased by 25 percent last year, and in Eastern Europe about one-third of all new TB cases are resistant to the key front-line drugs.

    The Olallo Project in Central London was set up to help homeless people from Central and Eastern Europe get back on their feet by helping them find a place to live and get a job.

    The charity has evolved, though, to serve another pressing need - tackling tuberculosis among Britain’s migrant community.

    Tough medicine

    Rimgaudas Planecinas from Lithuania has just finished an extended 18-month treatment to fight multi-drug-resistant TB, or MDR-TB. He found it difficult to describe the experience. Planecinas said the treatment made him unwell and affected his vision. He said he still suffers, even now that the treatment has ended.  

    He said he has trouble with breathing and weakness. He still feels weak, he said.

    In 2011, more than 400 cases of drug-resistant TB were reported in Britain. Compared to other parts of the world, it may not sound like a lot, but it was a 26 percent rise from the previous year.

    David Barratt, manager of the Olallo Project, said TB seems to become tougher to beat every year.

    “For the last few years the prevalence of multi-drug-resistance cases has been growing. We opened up the service just over a year ago now, initially expecting it to be for clients with normal TB looking for six months treatment," said Barratt. "And out of 14 referrals, 13 of them have had multi-drug-resistant TB.”

    Person-to-person transmission

    Some of Britain’s drug-resistant TB cases can be traced to the eastern half of the continent, where the world’s highest rates are found. TB normally becomes resistant to drugs when an antibiotics course is interrupted. But tests from Eastern Europe show that resistant forms of the disease now are being transmitted directly from person to person.

    Ibrahim Abubakar is an expert on Tuberculosis from University College London.

    “We think about one-third of people who have never been treated with antibiotics now have MDR-TB in those places [Eastern Europe]. And that is very worrying because it means that those people actually acquired MDR-TB from others, not because they used the drugs wrongly,” said Abubakar.

    New technology is helping health experts identify drug-resistant TB more quickly in high-risk regions, like in South Africa, which along with Russia, India and China, accounts for two-thirds of drug resistant cases.

    Lack of funding

    Improved technologies and new drugs are in the pipeline, but Abubakar said there is not enough funding to stay ahead of the disease.

    The World Health Organization said this month it has a $1.6-billion gap in funding for the treatment and prevention of TB. More than half of that is earmarked for sub-Saharan Africa.
     
    “I think that we are far behind where we ought to be," said Abubakar. "Further investment would be necessary if we are going to tackle the worsening situation - especially if we are going to tackle multi- and extensively-drug-resistant TB.”

    Without rapid advances, he said, TB could become incurable.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Cranksy from: USA
    March 24, 2013 1:33 PM
    I am grateful for the focus on multi-drug resistant TB in this article. Of course, I was distressed to learn it can be transmitted person to person. It is hard to know what emphasis to give the concluding sentence. As a headline, it would get more attention; but it may be too sensational.

    by: Davis K. Thanjan from: New York
    March 23, 2013 7:18 PM
    The increased incidence of TB in UK is due to migration of people from the Eastern Europe and Asia with high incidence of TB. The incidence of TB in USA is mainly due to migration from countries in Africa and Asia.
    The increased incidence of Multi-Drug Resistant TB (MDR-TB) is due to improper follow up of TB patients who refuse or avoid to follow the complete course of medication.
    The Direct Observed Therapy (DOT) is supervision of dosage intake in the presence of a medical social worker. The DOT reduces the incidence of MDR-TB.
    All MDR-TB patients should be under legally strict isolation and supervision of the patient, as it is done in the US. The lack of legal support for strict isolation of MDR-TB patients, poor medical supersion such as DOT and lack of facilities for strict isolation of MDR-TB patients increase the chances of spread of MDR-TB.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora