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

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
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.

VOA Blogs

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