In a terrifying article in the March 2013 issue, TIME magazine reports on the continuous rise of drug-resistant tuberculosis. Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that most often affect the lungs. Tuberculosis is curable and preventable. Or should I rephrase – is curable and preventable if the patient is responsive to medication.
Active, drug-sensitive TB disease is treated with a standard six-month course of four antimicrobial drugs that are provided with information, supervision and support to the patient by a health worker or trained volunteer. Since 1995, over 51 million people have been successfully treated (WHO).
However, extensively drug-resistant (XDR) tuberculosis was first described in 2006 – and physicians continue to observe increasingly resistant strains of tuberculosis. XFR TB is most prevelant in Russian prisons and in overcrowded poorer areas of India. If we turn our back on this and attempt to rationalise that it bears little significance to us living the high-life in the West, we will all get screwed.
Extensively drug-resistant strains have arisen after the mismanagement of individuals with multidrug-resistant TB
Multi-drug resistant TB threatens us all – the healthy and rich in the West just as much as the poor in Asia. And we should all be worried. Transmission of TB occurs through coughing of infectious droplets – all it takes is one infected passenger on board a flight to the UK from Delhi. The more we overprescribe antibiotics, the more rapidly antibiotic-resistant strains will develop. Read previous post on antibiotic-resistant strains. Moreover, in poor areas and Russian prisons, medication is scarce and patients are not receiving appropriate treatment or do not get follow up and do not finish the mandatory 6-month treatment. A lack of funds, inconsistancy of treatment, and bureaucracy obstruction the distribution of drugs.
With abbreviated or no treatment bacteria that have evolved resistance to drugs escape eradication and proliferate as a resistant strain. Then, even when treated with the strongest drugs for two years, the resistant TB is fatal about 60 percent of the time. — PBS
Unless politicians get involved and big money is spent all round towards providing the care TB patients need throughout the world, TB will hit us like the 14th Century Black Death. And we can all do our own little bit towards slowing down the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria by thinking twice when taking antibiotics next time.