New antibiotics that could treat tuberculosis may rapidly become ineffective, according to new research published by the Lancet ahead of World Tuberculosis Day.The rise in multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, which affected 480,000 people in 2015, could mean that even newly discovered drugs will soon be useless, the study found.In total both drug resistant and non-drug resistant Tuberculosis (TB) killed an estimated 1.8 million people in 2015, making it the world’s deadliest infectious disease. The five countries where TB is most predominant are India, Indonesia, China, Nigeria, Pakistan and South Africa. Multi-drug resistant tuberculosis reflects the meeting of an ancient and under-addressed disease – tuberculosis – with an emerging modern threat – antimicrobial resistance. The inappropriate use of antibiotics, including taking them without prescription or not following doctor’s orders closely is slowly rendering many antibiotics useless. “Resistance to anti-tuberculosis drugs is a global problem that threatens to derail efforts to eradicate the disease,” said lead author of the Lancet report Professor Keertan Dheda from the University of Cape Town, South Africa. “Even when the drugs work, TB is difficult to cure and requires months of treatment with a cocktail of drugs. When resistance occurs the treatment can take years and the drugs used have unpleasant and sometimes serious side effects,” said Dheda. Dheda added that it is important for improved diagnostic tests, which are currently being developed, to be made available in low-income countries “so as to inform treatment decisions and preserve the efficacy of any new antibiotic drugs for TB.” The report was published in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine on World TB Day – 24 March.

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