News / Health

Drug-Resistant TB is Global Threat

Phumeza Tisile, cured XDR-TB patient, South Africa. Credit: MSF
Phumeza Tisile, cured XDR-TB patient, South Africa. Credit: MSF

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
The medical aid group -- Doctors without Borders -- warns that drug-resistant tuberculosis has become a global threat. It says despite the growing number of cases, there are no effective treatments.


Doctors Without Borders has released a Crisis Alert called The New Face of an Old Disease. The group – also known by the French acronym MSF – says urgent action is needed to solve the problem.

Dr. Phillip Du Cros, a TB advisor for the group, said, “In MSF’s experience, we are seeing MDR-TB – or multi-drug resistant TB – in more and more countries and in more numbers in our programs.”

There are about 500,000 new cases of MDR-TB every year.

Du Cros said that it’s hard enough dealing with MDR-TB, let alone an even stronger strain of the bacteria that causes XDR-TB or extensively drug resistant tuberculosis. He tells the story of an infected child in Central Asia.

“After a year of treatment, she was failing treatment with all the drugs that we have. So this poor child had gone through treatment where she had suffered from nausea almost every day and she was going deaf from one of the drugs. She was having to take over seven different drugs every day, all with different side effects. And despite trying to take all of this treatment she was failing treatment and showing the limits of the treatment that we have available currently,” he said.

Standard TB drugs do not work against the new forms of the disease. Treatment for MDR-TB could last two years, during which time a patient may swallow 10,000 pills and have daily injections for eight months. And after all that, it may not work.

Du Cros said, “I think the main reason this has got to be a big problem is that although we’ve made some progress tackling TB, in recent years the global community has turned away from investing in improving on what we can do with TB. We’ve been satisfied with old answers. The reality is that we don’t currently have the answers that will solve the problem of TB. We don’t have actually effective treatments in new regimens that will actually tackle the large epidemic of multi-drug-resistant TB.

Bacteria can build resistance when TB patients fail to complete their drug regimen – and when countries do not strictly control the use of medications.

“It’s a global problem, which the global community needs to take responsibility for. Not just international organizations like our own or the World Health Organization, but I think also governments and pharmaceutical companies and academics. There are maybe lots of good individual initiatives, but I think as a global community we really need to come together urgently and look at how we can have faster solutions that are going to deliver a real change at ground level for this epidemic,” he said.

The solution, he said, is a much shorter, more effective treatment. Currently, there are only about five to eight drugs used to treat resistant TB depending on the regimen needed. The two latest drugs available are actually the first new TB medications developed in 40 years.

“Although that’s cause for optimism,” he said, “we still don’t know how to use those drugs in new regimens. And so we’re limited by adding them to a regimen that is already highly toxic and difficult for patients to take.”

Dr. Du Cros added if a global investment is not made to address the epidemic there will be a price to pay.

“As an example, in the United States in the early 90s, there was an outbreak of multi-drug resistant TB. And as a result of a few hundred cases the public health program invested nearly one billion [U.S.] dollars. That number of patients is not even a third of what we see in one of our programs in one country. If we don’t start to step-in early to deal with the problem now, you can multiply that figure by a huge number that you can pluck out of the air.”

The Doctors without Borders alert said, “With only one in five people in need receiving treatment, the fatal, airborne disease is left to spread indiscriminately.”

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violencei
X
Lenny Ruvaga
November 27, 2014 7:05 PM
The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid