Europe cannot tackle drug-resistant TB

‘Europe cannot tackle drug-resistant TB’

Wed, 19 Mar 2014 09:40:12 GMT

Europe is failing to properly diagnose and treat dangerous drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis, health experts say.

Every day, almost 1,000 people across the 53 countries of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) European region fall sick with TB, and multidrug-resistant (MDR) and extensively drug-resistant (XDR) TB pose a serious risk to the goal of eliminating it by 2050, the experts underlined.

Data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the WHO’s regional office showed that drug-resistant TB strains affect at least 76,000 people in the region. But more than half are not properly diagnosed and only one in every three patients is successfully treated.

At 25 percent, the treatment success rate for XDR TB patients is even lower.

Treating even regular TB is a long process. Patients need to take a cocktail of antibiotics for six months and many fail to complete the treatment – fuelling growing drug resistance.

“We must reach all patients, not only half of them and ‘half the way'”, said Zsuzsanna Jakab, the WHO’s regional director for Europe.

She said there was now an urgent need for new anti-TB medicines with shorter and more effective treatment courses that patients would be more able and more likely to stick to.

Often mistakenly seen as a disease of the past, TB has over the last decade developed into one of the world’s most alarming public health threats with the emergence of drug-resistant or “superbug” strains that can’t be treated even with numerous drugs.

Of all infectious diseases worldwide, only HIV – the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS – kills more people.

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