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US Traveler With Deadly TB Has Less Serious Strain

A US tuberculosis patient under mandatory isolation since his Greek wedding and Italian honeymoon is infected with a less serious strain of the disease than initially thought, doctors said on Tuesday.

Andrew Speaker's wedding travels, including seven flights and an overland trip from Canada, triggered a global health alert two months ago when the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said he was infected with a potentially deadly strain of tuberculosis generally irresponsive to drug treatment.

"We have been able to demonstrate he does not have XDR-TB, or extensively drug-resistant TB," said Charles Daley of the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver, Colorado, where Speaker is being treated.

Daley, who heads the hospital's Infectious Disease Division, said in a telephone press conference that Speaker suffers from multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, which is still serious but is easier to treat.

The doctor also said that if Speaker infected other people, "we now have some drugs available to try to treat them and prevent them from developing TB."

Speaker was the first person in more than four decades to be placed under mandatory isolation by US health authorities, who feared he suffered the rare XDR TB infection.

He was engaged to be married and in the thick of planning his May nuptials, when doctors found in January he was infected with TB. Because treatment was ineffective, he decided to check into Denver's cutting-edge clinic after his honeymoon.

After their Greek wedding, the newlyweds flew on to Italy for their honeymoon.

By then, US health officials had realized just how serious the case was and managed to contact Speaker in Rome. A CDC official told him to turn himself in to Italian health authorities to be placed in isolation.

"They told me I had been put on the no-fly list and my passport was flagged," he said on his retur n, insisting he had no intention of undergoing treatment in Italy.

To avoid detection, the couple flew to Montreal via Prague and then drove to the United States, where he called the CDC and agreed to head to an isolation hospital in New York. He was eventually transferred to Denver.

The CDC said his level of infectiousness was "quite low" but urged people who were sitting close to him on the transatlantic flights to contact authorities for testing.


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