Sunday, 27 November 2011

TUBERCULOSIS: WHO warns of untreatable strain of tuberculosis

November 26, 2011 – NEW GUINEA –
The World Health Organization is warning of the potential for an untreatable form of tuberculosis to develop on Australia’s doorstep. It says infections of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR TB) in Papua New Guinea’s remote south-west have reached crisis levels. The country’s health minister says tuberculosis is now a greater health emergency than HIV/AIDS. Dr Catharina Van Weezenbeek, from the World Health Organization, says it is now clear the problem is in a state of emergency. “If you just look at the numbers of MDR TB cases, it’s clear that we’re dealing with a crisis,” she said. “Children 14-years-old infected with MDR TB in a family with already five patients dying.” A research team from WHO found the rural health centers are rundown with very limited or no medical supplies. There is no TB coordinator in the region so no one is monitoring patients to ensure they stick to the lengthy treatment of drugs required to beat the disease, meaning many do not. WHO’s Dr Donald Enarson says that has led to the emergence of MDR TB. “Multi-drug resistance has passed from being created from bad treatment to now being established in a community by itself and spreading among community members,” he said. Local medical records show 94 people have contracted MDR TB in Western Province since 2005. But the records are incomplete and WHO suspects those cases are just the tip of a much bigger iceberg. The organization’s MDR TB expert, Dr Ernesto Jaramillo, says the situation has the potential to get much worse. “When treatment is delivered under the current conditions which many patients are having, then it’s a matter of months or years before we have forms of TB that cannot be cured,” she said. -ABC

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