The rise in drug-resistant tuberculosis cases is posing such a serious global health threat that efforts to target the disease could soon resemble care in the 1930s, before antibiotics were developed to treat TB.
That’s the conclusion of two leading public health specialists in a new report, published in the medical journal Thorax, that documents the rise and spread of resistant TB.
"Whatever we may have once optimistically thought, TB remains with death, taxes, and political chicanery as being inevitable, unavoidable, and deeply unpleasant," write Andy Bush and Ian Pavord, of the Royal Brompton Hospital in London and Glenfield Hospital in Leicester. "It shows every sign of weathering the storm and superb randomised controlled trials, to emerge in ever-increasingly drug-resistant forms, potentially turning the clock back to the 1930s."
In a special edition of the journal, marking World TB Day, Bush and Pavord call for new approaches to curbing TB’s spread to avoid returning to the days when TB required patients be quarantined and surgery was common.
The journal contains new research papers, examining a range of issues, including the risk of TB after HIV infection, risk factors, and the impact of ethnicity on the pattern of disease.
"This edition of Thorax, coinciding with World TB Day, is themed to recognize the ongoing sinister successes of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, unarguably the most successful human pathogen of all time," they conclude.
TB often lies dormant with no symptoms. But in some cases, it becomes active, attacking the lungs, bones, and nervous system. Left untreated, TB can be fatal.
The authors note TB is developing increasing resistance in many places around the world, with some strains resistant to virtually every drug currently available to treat it.
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