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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Yet Another Medical Scourge in Russia: Drug-resistant Tuberculosis

The International News reports:

Former Soviet republics and China head the global list for prevalence of multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR TB), a study to be published in The Lancet on Saturday says. After a survey of 76 countries, researchers led by the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that 424,000 cases of MDR TB occurred in 2004. China, India and Russia accounted for half of these cases. MRD-TB accounted for one per cent of worldwide cases of tuberculosis on average. Kazakhstan had the highest prevalence, with 14.2 per cent of TB cases having MDR strains, followed by the Tomsk region in Russia (13.7 per cent), Uzbekistan (13.8 per cent), Estonia (12.2 per cent), Liaoning province in China (10.4 per cent), Lithuania (9.4 per cent), Latvia (9.3 per cent) and Henan province in China (7.8 per cent). In September, the WHO had issued an estimate of 450,000 new MDR TB cases out of around nine million new TB infections. MDR TB is defined as a strain that thwarts at least two of the most potent first-line antibiotics, including isoniazid and rifampicin, that are conventionally used to treat TB. They are precursors to extensively drug-resistant (XDR) strains. XDR TB is a newly-discovered mutation of the TB germ than not only defeats the first line of drugs but the second line too, leaving doctors with a shrinking, preciously hoarded arsenal of medications. XDR TB has triggered a scare in South Africa, reaping a mortal harvest among patients who are co-infected with the AIDS virus. MDR TB is mainly caused by misuse of antibiotics, in which a patient fails to complete the full course of drugs. His or her symptoms disappear but a reservoir of germs remains that are capable of mutating, eventually reviving the disease in the patient and also potentially infecting others.
Russia is already ill-disposed to address its burgeoning AIDS crisis, and seems to prefer instead to view HIV infection as a sign of a defective person that Russia is well rid of. Obviuosly, unlike China, the Russian population is not nearly vital enough to sustain the ravages of yet another unchecked disease, and Russia is also widely speculated as a ripe target for a bird flu outbreak.

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