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I didn't see this posted around here yet or heard any of the news media talking about this. Seems pretty important considering...
Over the past 48 hours, news has broken in India of the existence of at least 12 patients infected with tuberculosis that has become resistant to all the drugs used against the disease. Physicians in Mumbai are calling the strain TDR, for Totally Drug-Resistant. In other words, it is untreatable as far as they know.
Why this is bad news: TB is already one of the world’s worst killers, up there with malaria and HIV/AIDS, accounting for 9.4 million cases and 1.7 million deaths in 2009, according to the WHO. At the best of times, TB treatment is difficult, requiring at least 6 months of pill combinations that have unpleasant side effects and must be taken long after the patient begins to feel well.
Because of the mismatch between treatment and symptoms, people often don’t take their full course of drugs — and from that (and some other factors I’ll talk about in a minute) we get multi-drug resistant and extensively drug-resistant, MDR and XDR, TB. MDR is resistant to the first-choice drugs, requiring that patients instead be treated with a larger cocktail of “second-line” agents, which are less effective, have more side effects, and take much longer to effect a cure, sometimes 2 years or more. XDR is resistant to the three first-line drugs and several of the nine or so drugs usually recognized as being second choice.
That’s for MDR. None of the TDR patients have been recorded cured, and at least one of the known Indian patients has died.
Meanwhile, health authorities estimate that one patient with active TB can infect up to 15 others. And thus resistant TB spreads: XDR-TB was first identified just in 2006, and it has since been found in 69 countries around the world.
The article goes on, but I think I got the most important points.