Yaws, a skin and bone disease caused by a treponematoses bacterium that can cause long-term deformities, “has recently been put on WHO’s list of 17 so-called neglected tropical diseases (NTDs)” and, along with Guinea worm, is “slated for eradication,” the Lancet reports. A “massive push to free the world from yaws failed in the 1950s and 1960s,” and the WHO in 1995 estimated “there were 2.5 million cases of endemic treponematoses (mostly yaws),” according to the Lancet. A study published in the Lancet in January showed a single dose of the antibiotic azithromycin was effective at curing the disease among children, a finding that “jump-started the NTD community into action,” the article states.
A strain of malaria that is resistant to artemisinin combination therapy (ACT) is spreading along the Thai-Myanmar border and has the potential to spread to Africa if efforts to effectively treat and prevent the disease are not undertaken, according to a study published in the Lancet on Friday, Reuters reports (Lyn, 4/5). Since 2008, patients treated with ACT have been slower to clear the parasite than previously, “[a]nd this precursor to resistance seems to be spreading, despite efforts to carefully use artemisinin (by giving it in combination with other drugs) to avoid the emergence of resistance,” Scientific American writes.
In this New York Times opinion piece, Frank Smithuis, director of Medical Action Myanmar in Yangon, and Nick White, professor of tropical medicine at the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit in Bangkok, recount a brief history of the development of anti-malaria drugs and their contribution to “a significant global reduction in malaria” and note that this progress “is now threatened by the emergence of malaria parasites that are resistant to artemisinin on the Cambodia-Thailand border …, the same place where chloroquine resistance emerged 50 years ago and spread across Asia and Africa to claim millions of lives.” They write, “The spread of artemisinin resistance is a very serious threat to health in the tropics. There are currently no drugs that can satisfactorily replace artemisinins.”
In this Lancet opinion piece, Madhukar Pai, a professor and tuberculosis (TB) researcher at McGill University and consultant to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, discusses TB control in India. He writes, “Much has been said and written in the media about totally drug-resistant tuberculosis â€¦ However, all of these discussions really miss the key point — that tuberculosis continues to be a huge problem in India, and that the conditions for emergence of drug resistance are undeniably prevalent, in both public and private sectors.”
Inadequate Government TB Program, Lax Drug Sale Regulations Contributing To MDR-TB Cases In India, Health Groups Say
“India’s inadequate government-run tuberculosis [TB] treatment programs and a lack of regulation of the sale of drugs that fight the disease are responsible for the [increasing] number of drug-resistant cases that are difficult to treat,” health advocacy organizations said in India last week, the Associated Press/Huffington Post reports. “India adds an estimated 99,000 cases of drug-resistant TB every year, but only a tiny fraction of those infected receive the proper” six- to nine-month antibiotic regimen, according to the AP. In India, government-run TB treatment programs only provide drugs to patients on alternate days, increasing the likelihood of missed doses, and patients increasingly are turning to private physicians who are unaware of how to treat the disease, Medecins Sans Frontieres in India and other health groups said, the news agency reports. “The Indian government had no response Friday to requests for comment on the activists’ allegations,” the AP writes (Naqvi, 3/23).
“About 900,000 cases of active tuberculosis (TB) were discovered and treated [in China] in 2011, including 423,000 infectious cases, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced Monday at a press conference,” Xinhua reports. “Xiao Donglou, a health inspector from the MOH, said at the press conference that China improved its ability to prevent and control TB last year, focusing on HIV/TB co-infections and cases of TB among the country’s migrant population,” noting “1,701 HIV/TB co-infections were reported last year, as well as 51,682 cases of TB among the migrant population,” the news agency writes.
“[O]ften seen in the wealthy West as a disease of bygone eras,” Reuters examines rising rates of tuberculosis (TB) — drug-resistant TB in particular — among the world’s rich and poor. “[R]apidly rising rates of drug-resistant TB in some of the wealthiest cities in the world, as well as across Africa and Asia, are again making history,” Reuters writes. According to the news service, “London has been dubbed the ‘tuberculosis capital of Europe,’ and a startling recent study documenting new cases of so-called ‘totally drug-resistant’ TB in India suggests the modern-day tale of this disease could get a lot worse.”
As more bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, “common infections could become deadly, according to” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, who spoke on Wednesday at a conference titled “Combating Antimicrobial Resistance: Time for Action” in Copenhagen, ABC News reports. “‘Some experts say we are moving back to the pre-antibiotic era. No. This will be a post-antibiotic era. In terms of new replacement antibiotics, the pipeline is virtually dry,’ said Chan. ‘A post-antibiotic era means, in effect, an end to modern medicine as we know it. Things as common as strep throat or a child’s scratched knee could once again kill,'” the news service notes (Moisse, 3/16).
“The Kenyan government’s recent failure to adequately treat a patient with extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) has some civil society organizations questioning whether the country’s TB program is equipped to diagnose and treat such patients,” PlusNews reports. “The government admits the TB program in Kenya has not been adequately funded despite the country’s big TB burden,” PlusNews writes, adding, “Kenya ranks 13th on the list of 22 high-burden TB countries in the world and has the fifth-highest burden in Africa.”
In an interview with Xinhua on Tuesday, Francis Adatu, head of the national leprosy and tuberculosis (TB) program in Uganda, warned that TB “remains a major public health problem” and that multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) has emerged in the country, the news service writes. “‘According to our prevalence survey we found MDR-TB in 1.3 percent among new cases and 12.3 percent among people who have been exposed to drugs or treated over and over again,’ Adatu said,” Xinhua writes, noting that Adatu said treatment for MDR-TB was much more expensive than for drug-susceptible TB.