TB: Plan to tackle rise in drug-resistant cases

The WHO estimates there are 81,000 cases of drug-resistant TB a year in Europe, although many countries are failing to diagnose it. The plan aims to increase diagnosis and access to treatment. Experts believe it has the potential to save several billion pounds and 120,000 lives by 2015. Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan are among the countries with the highest burden of illness.

In 2009, there were 58 cases of drug-resistant TB in the UK. Resistance can arise if patients fail to complete their course of medication. Dr Ibrahim Abubakar Health Protection Agency, said: “We cannot be complacent – the cost of each case can be several hundred thousand pounds. The larger numbers in Eastern Europe represent a failure to take action. TB is an airborne infection which still proves fatal in about 7% of cases. Almost half of patients with the multi-drug resistant form of the disease die.

The WHO has praised the UK\’s \”Find and Treat\” service, which uses a mobile X-ray van to screen homeless people and drug addicts for TB. Dr Ogtay Gozalov, from the WHO\’s Europe office, said: \”It\’s not just the vulnerable populations like migrants and prisoners – all of us could be exposed. If member states don\’t take action now, there could be a dramatic situation in the future.\”

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