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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs