August 12, 2009
On Monday in Bali at the ninth International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, the executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria warned of the "under-diagnosis" of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR TB) around the world.
Even among those who have been diagnosed with MDR TB, just a fraction are being treated, said Michel Kazatchkine. "The Global Fund is funding about 25,000 to 30,000 patients but the estimated total number of cases is 500,000. So we are very far off. It is a dangerous epidemic that is spreading."
In Asia-Pacific, the region with the highest number of MDR TB cases, only 1 percent of cases are being treated, said Kazatchkine.
The emergence of MDR TB, which results from improper use of antibiotics to treat regular TB, such as failure to complete the standard six- to eight-month treatment regimen, poses a significant public health threat, particularly for countries with high HIV/AIDS prevalence. People with HIV/AIDS are especially vulnerable to TB due to their compromised immune systems, and TB is the leading cause of death among these patients.
In addition, the cost of treating MDR TB is about 100 times that of regular TB treatment.
"The best way to prevent resistant TB is to get people to take the whole course of standard TB drugs," said Kazatchkine, while stressing the need to allocate more money to treat MDR TB.