Concern is prevalent over drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis bacilli (TB) growing and now noted thriving in India with similar ‘incurable’ TB emerging in Italy and Iran.
It has been reported for the first time by Indian doctors that 12 patients had a ‘totally drug resistant’ form of the infection, and three have died.
Normally a patient with TB is given a six to nine month course of antibiotics to eradicate it.
However, new strains of the bacterium have developed which are increasingly resistant to the antibiotics most commonly used to treat it.
The Indian reports will fuel concerns over the ability of doctors to contain the disease in years to come.
Most patients came from slum areas of the city, they said, where close contact between people meant further spread was likely.
The doctors at the Hinduja National Hospital in Mumbai who discovered it said they had treated patients for up to two years with a battery of drugs, to no avail.
Dr. Ruth Mcnerney, a senior lecturer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a trustee of charity TB Alert, said the new cases represented a ‘serious threat’ to global efforts to control TB.
She said the high prevalence of TB in India, coupled with high population density within its cities, meant that the new type of TB could be a bigger problem than previous ‘totally resistant’ strains.
The American Centers for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed that the Indian strain did appear to be completely resistant.
Patients who do not finish their lengthy course of treatment also present the bacterium with the perfect environment for developing further resistance.
Hence, there have been repeated calls for the pharmaceutical industry to make more efforts to develop fresh antibiotics.