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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More