Lifestyle & Belief

Tuberculosis becoming highly drug resistant, reports new study

The highly infectious disease tuberculosis is becoming highly drug resistant, according to a study released Wednesday in the journal The Lancet.

The study, known as the Preserving Effective TB Treatment Study (PETTS), was a coordinated effert with the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, along with health organizations in Estonia, Latvia, Peru, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, South Korea and Thailand.

The World Health Organization notes that there are currently 8.8 million patients infected with tuberculosis worldwide, and it is the second deadliest infectious disease globally after AIDS.

ABC News noted that, while tuberculosis is currently curable, the treatment relies on patients diligently taking medication over the course of several months. If patients stop taking their medicine as directed, drug resistance can develop more easily.

The authors of the study noted, "Among 1,278 patients who were resistant to two or more first-line tuberculosis drugs in Estonia, Latvia, Peru, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, South Korea and Thailand, 43.7 percent showed resistance to at least one second-line drug."

“The global emergence of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis heralds the advent of widespread, virtually untreatable tuberculosis," the study's authors said. 

To combat this, the World Heath Organization has moved to a new form of treatment called "Dots", short for “directly observed treatment, short course.” According to Business Week, with the Dots treatment, patients are required go to a clinic three times a week and be supervised when taking their medicine to be sure they complete the treatment.

The author's believe that the study will help nations to develop individualized strategies for testing their populations for TB and bringing patients in for proper treatment.

Peter Cegielski, a drug-resistant TB specialist at the CDC, told Time, “I think what this data points out are that there are substantial differences between countries and a one-size-fits all policy approach is not suitable for this public health problem. The kind of data we present will enable those countries to address their own situation in a more targeted way.”