Drug immune TB found in India sparks concern

A completely drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis has surfaced in Mumbai.

The discovery has rung alarm bells among medical practitioners and authorities worldwide, especially those working in TB prevention.

The World Health Organisation itself is known to be organizing a meeting to assess the evidence and decide what to do next.

This strain of TB, called Multidrug-resistant (MDR) TB, is resistant to all of the main TB drugs and may raise a situation where patients have nothing but their immune system to help fight off the disease.

It was first seen in the early 90’s and later extensively drug-resistant (XDR) TB emerged in 2006. Now, the focus may switch to totally drug-resistant (TDR) tuberculosis.

Although Indian cases have been reported for the first time, it was reported in Italy in 2007, where it affected two patients. Then in 2009, 15 patients were reported in Iran.

“We currently have 12 confirmed cases, of which three are dead,” New Scientist quoted Zarir Udwadia of the Hinduja National Hospital and Medical Research Centre in Mumbai, as saying.

What compounds the problem for India is that the strain has been found in a congested city like Mumbai, where it could spread very quickly.

“It’s estimated that on average, a tuberculosis patient infects 10 to 20 contacts in a year, and there’s no reason to suspect that this strain is any less transmissible,” Udwadia said.

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