The Los Angeles Times’ “Booster Shots” blog features an interview with Otto Yang, a professor at the Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, who speaks about drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) and the implications of a highly drug-resistant strain found in India. Yang said, “Obviously [the drug-resistant TB] could be devastating if it spreads, because treatment options are so limited. So far it seems not to have been as contagious as other strains, possibly because the mutations required to make it drug-resistant also make it a little less virulent” (Brown, 1/18).
Health officials from India and the WHO are scheduled to meet in Mumbai on Tuesday to discuss how to manage the cases of at least 12 patients infected with a highly drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) strain, Bloomberg reports (Narayan, 1/17). “The ‘totally drug-resistant’ tuberculosis (TDR-TB) reportedly emerging in India is actually an advanced stage of drug-resistant TB, which researchers called totally drug-resistant for lack of a better term,” IRIN notes (1/17).
Al Jazeera examines how “[a] series of public-health campaigns, including more aggressive screening, have been credited with a drop in tuberculosis [TB] cases in Kenya” in this video report. “The screening and treatment program, regarded as one of the best in the developing world, is credited with taking the rate of TB infections in the East African country from a high of 116,000 in 2006 to 106,000 last year,” but not without “an economic and political price,” the news service reports. “For TB screening and treatment programs to be effective, supply chains for drugs and equipment and proper training for staff and administrative back-up must be in place,” Al Jazeera reports (Greste, 1/9).
“For the first time in India, 12 people have been detected with totally drug-resistant lung tuberculosis (TDR-TB), a condition in which patients do not respond to any TB medication” and for which the mortality rate is 100 percent, the Hindustan Times reports. “Doctors treating these patients say the absolute resistance is a result of the patients being prescribed wrong antibiotics,” the newspaper reports (1/7). “While Iran first reported TDR-TB cases three years ago, India seems to be only the second country to report this deadly form of the disease,” the Times of India notes (Iyer, 1/7).
This Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) special report highlights the top 10 stories of 2011 regarding access to essential medicines, according to MSF. The list includes the findings of the HPTN 052 clinical trial, which “show that providing people with HIV treatment early not only saves their lives but can reduce the risk…
In this post in GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog, journalist John Donnelly reports on tuberculosis (TB) in Estonia and how the country has significantly reduced the proportion of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) cases since 1998. He writes, “The numbers of new TB cases in Estonia were five times that of the Nordic countries in 1998, but the numbers have tumbled since then and last year Estonia had cut that in half, to 2.5 times the number.” MDR-TB still represents 22 percent of all TB cases, but several factors — including “a decision by government leaders to fully fund anti-TB efforts; banning sale of TB drugs in pharmacies in order to cut down on misuse; annual training of all TB medical staff by international experts; and the country ensured it would have enough of the scarce drugs needed to fight MDR-TB” — have helped bring down the numbers, he reports. Donnelly is reporting independently on a trip made through the Philippines, Estonia, and Peru with photographer Riccardo Venturi “at the invitation of the Japanese company Otsuka Pharmaceutical to look at the human impact of TB” (12/20).
In an opinion piece on the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) website, MSF International President Unni Karunakara writes that with the cancellation of the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria’s Round 11 grants, “The Board of the Global Fund must raise the alarm. Instead of accepting rationing, and cancelling ambitions, we…
“The Central African Republic (CAR) is in the grips of a chronic medical emergency, according to a report released today by the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF),” an MSF press release states. “Four mortality studies carried out by MSF over the past 18 months reveal crude mortality rates in some regions of CAR at three times the emergency threshold of one death per 10,000 people per day, which, according to the World Health Organization, is considered a humanitarian crisis,” the press release adds (12/13).
The 16th International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA) ended on Thursday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where “the final plenary session … left the audience with a notion of hope and urgency that despite the Global Fund’s cancellation of Round 11 disbursements, the organization will continue to campaign, raise funds and place pressure on governments in both the donor and recipient arenas,” an ICASA news article reports (12/8). Speaking at the session, “Global Fund Deputy Executive Director Debrework Zewdie felt compelled to reassure those benefiting from the fund,” saying, “‘Everyone who is on treatment funded by the Global Fund will stay on treatment,'” according to Deutsche Presse-Agentur/M&C (Frentzen/Waswa, 12/8).
South African President Jacob Zuma in a speech on Thursday to mark World AIDS Day introduced a new five-year National Strategic Plan (.pdf) on HIV, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and tuberculosis (TB), which “calls for stepped-up prevention efforts to halve new infections of HIV and tuberculosis by 2016 and to put 80 percent of eligible patients on antiretroviral drugs to fight AIDS,” Agence France-Presse reports (12/1). In addition, the plan aims to reduce the number of mother-to-child HIV transmission cases, which Zuma noted was halved between 2008 and 2010, reduce HIV- and TB-related stigma, target high-risk populations, and promote education among youth to reduce their risk of HIV infection, according to Times Live (Chauke/Mclea, 12/2).