China battles drug-resistant TB15th December 2008
Drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) is a public health problem in China, with a rate of occurrence running at twice the global average.
Nearly one tenth of TB cases resist the most effective treatment on the market.
Providing drugs for such strains of TB is both expensive and difficult, as stronger drugs may be unavailable.
In China, TB is the leading cause of death from infectious disease in adults.
China has an estimated 4.5 million cases of people with TB, the second largest tuberculosis epidemic after India.
Researchers on the TB situation made a survey among 10 Chinese provinces between 1996 and 2004.
They found that multi-drug resistant, MDR-TB, made up 9.3% of all cases, 5.4% of new cases and 25% of those previously treated.
These percentages were strikingly higher than global MDR-TB figures.
The global average is 4.8% for all cases, 3.1% for new cases and 19.3% for those previously treated.
Treatment for regular TB involves a commitment of six to 12 months, but many patients stop prematurely.
It is thought that patients stop the treatment due to side effects, or because of a careless attitude toward the disease.
Removal from treatment puts sufferers at risk of developing drug resistance.
MDR-TB is defined as resistance to two of the most potent anti-TB drugs. Treatment for MDR-TB requires a two-year commitment.
Because the drugs that treat MDR-TB are expensive, people without enough money may end up using second-line replacements.
These toxic and less powerful second-line treatments ultimately render the patients less likely to survive.
But if treatment in China were up to standard, the proportion of previously treated patients among all TB patients would be much lower.
The study found that the proportion of previously treated patients in China was around 20%, compared with a global average of 11%.
Researchers said there were many possible explanations for the development of drug resistance.
These include the inadequate use of drugs in hospitals, poorly supervised treatment, and the absence of measures preventing the spread of the disease within the hospitals themselves.
Various explanations for the situation may prevail in different regions of China. The study said that, in the past, the drugs were made available without a prescription. In some areas of China, this may also have contributed to the development of drug resistance.
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Title: China battles drug-resistant TB
Author: Luisetta Mudie
Article Id: 9552
Date Added: 15th Dec 2008