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Drug Resistance Is Slowing Global Fight Against TB

Current strategies can't beat this growing challenge, researchers say

FRIDAY, Aug. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Standard methods of treating tuberculosis are failing in countries with high rates of multi-drug resistant (MDR) forms of the disease, say researchers who analyzed World Health Organization data from 2003 to 2004 for 155 countries.

In countries with high rates of MDR-TB, patients are nearly twice as likely to fail their initial treatment than patients in countries with low rates of MDR-TB -- 21.4 percent vs. 11.9 percent. The findings suggest that current TB treatment regimens need to be updated and revised, the study authors said.

"In countries where the prevalence of initial drug resistance exceeds three percent, we believe it is urgent to strengthen capacity to perform drug sensitivity testing, or to reevaluate these standard treatment regimens, given the unacceptably high rates of failure and relapse," wrote lead author Dr. Dick Menzies, director of the respiratory division at McGill University in Montreal, and colleagues.

The study was published in the first issue for August of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

When current TB treatment regimens were developed, MDR-TB was much less common, the researchers pointed out.

In the short term, higher treatment failure and relapse rates "mean greater morbidity and mortality for patients, with greater social and economic harm for their families and communities. In the longer term, these standardized regimens may be contributing to amplification of multi-drug resistance in these countries," the researchers wrote.

"Unless those with the responsibility to boost control and research efforts increase their commitments and their financial investments by several fold, we may never see elimination of this major scourge in the decades to come," they concluded.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about TB.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Thoracic Society, news release, Aug. 1, 2008

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