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South Africa Increasing Efforts To Contain Drug-Resistant TB, Minister Says

South Africa is increasing its efforts to prevent the spread of drug-resistant tuberculosis by making appropriate treatments available in the public health sector and providing health care workers with training, Minister of Social Development Zola Skweyiya said at a media briefing on Tuesday, BuaNews reports.

In addition, Skweyiya said that the country is expanding hospital isolation wards and refining surveillance and detection methods in an attempt to contain extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis - TB that is resistant to the two most potent first-line treatments and some of the available second-line drugs. According to Skweyiya, research is being conducted to determine the extent of XDR-TB in South Africa.

Thamsanga Dennis Mseleku, director-general for the country's Department of Health, at the briefing said that XDR-TB has spread to all of South Africa's provinces. "We know that in many of our provinces, one of the challenges we face is that of infrastructure," he said. Mseleku added that there is a need to isolate people admitted to hospitals with XDR-TB, as well as from people who have multi-drug resistant TB. He said the country's current health care infrastructure can not accommodate this -- a situation that is being addressed.

According to Mseleku, an immediate diagnostic test for MDR-TB and XDR-TB has been developed, allowing health care workers to provide faster and more appropriate treatment. In the past, MDR-TB and XDR-TB were detected by process of elimination, according to Mseleku. He said that doctors tried treatments and only detected drug-resistant TB when the treatment was not effective. Mseleku said that South Africa has implemented "ongoing surveillance" methods to test everyone with TB for MDR-TB and XDR-TB.

The health department also is tracing family members and other people who have been in contact with someone diagnosed with MDR-TB or XDR-TB to ensure the disease has not been transm itted, Mseleku said. In addition, the National Health Laboratory Service has been examining archives to determine if previous TB cases could be drug resistant.

"We also know that the challenge of XDR-TB for South Africa is actually not a uniquely South African phenomenon," Mseleku said. "How we actually manage this will give a lot of lessons to the world ... particularly (the relationship between) XDR-TB and HIV and AIDS," he said.


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