Via The New York Times: Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis on the Rise in China. Excerpt:
China has a “serious epidemic of drug-resistant tuberculosis,” according to the first national survey of the disease, which was carried out by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and published last week in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Of the roughly 4,000 tuberculosis patients tested, a third of those with new cases and half of those with previously treated cases had drug-resistant disease.
Moreover, a quarter of the previously treated patients had multi-drug-resistant, or MDR, strains. Eight percent of those had “extensively drug resistant” TB, as defined by its resistance to four antibiotics: isoniazid, rifampin, ofloxacin and kanamycin.
Strains resistant to that many drugs are nearly incurable. Even treating MDR tuberculosis can require several years and cost $16,000 for drugs and far more for hospitalization. China, which has about one-fifth of the world’s people, has about a quarter of its drug-resistant TB cases, the Chinese center estimated.
The report made it clear that China’s current treatment strategies were a failure. More than 40 percent of those treated for MDR tuberculosis had not taken their last dose. The problem was particularly acute among people seen in general hospitals.
Despite the fact that many newly infected patients had drug-resistant strains of TB, clinics did not test them for this. Some patients had been started on drugs without even receiving a firm diagnosis.