The World Health Organisation has issued a clear warning about the spread of drug-resistant tuberculosis.
Margaret Chan, director-general of the WHO, noted the worrying development that over half of new cases of drug-resistant TB are resistant to multiple drugs from the start, and not as a result of substandard medical intervention.
“This is the true alarm bell. This tells us that resistant strains are now circulating in the general population, spreading widely and largely silently in a growing pool of latent infection,” she said.
Health officials from 27 countries with high rates of drug-resistant TB have gathered in Beijing to discuss how to tackle these strains of the lung disease.
According to the WHO, of nine million new TB cases each year, about 500,000 are multiple-drug resistant TB MDR-TB and about 40,000 are extensively drug resistant XDR-TB. People with the latter have few treatment options and death rates are high.