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Local and Community News

Minnesota Doctor's TB Resistant to Drugs

January 10, 2003

A Duluth doctor who exposed patients to TB is infected with a drug-resistant strain of the disease. The Minnesota Health Department said Thursday that preliminary laboratory results show that Dr. Okechukwu Iwu's TB does not respond to the five drugs most commonly used as a first line of defense against the infection.

Health Department spokesperson Doug Shultz said a confirmation is expected Monday. Iwu is in serious condition at St. Mary's Medical Center.

Besides wiping out doctors' best options for treating Iwu, his drug-resistant TB also eliminates drugs that prevent the disease in exposed patients or in Iwu's co-workers who test positive for infection. Iwu may have exposed as many as 90 patients in two Duluth hospitals, St. Mary's and Miller-Dwan medical centers, between Nov. 1 and Dec. 3. The Health Department wants at least 70 of the doctor's former patients to take a skin test for the bacteria that causes TB.

In the first nine month of 2002, 4 percent of Minnesota's 131 TB infections were resistant to at least two front-line drugs, and 17 percent were not susceptible to one front-line drug.

Doctors do not know which second-tier drugs may cripple or kill Iwu's infection, said Dr. Janet Larson, Minnesota's TB consultant and an infectious disease specialist at Hennepin County Medical Center. The alternative drugs, some of which require shots or IVs, are less effective and cause more side effects, she said.

The National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver will test to see if Iwu's infection is resistant to any of 10 or 12 alternative medications. Results depend on how fast the bacteria grow in the lab, Larson explained.

Iwu has been treated for TB before: in New York, where he treated TB patients, in May 2001. Two people exposed to Iwu have tested positive for an infection, according to the county Health Department and St. Mary's/Duluth Clinic.

Back to other CDC news for January 10, 2003

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Duluth News Tribune
01.10.03; Melanie Evans

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.