Monday, July 16, 2007

XDR-TB in South Africa due to Noncompliance

Here is more news about the deadly new strain of TB - now in South Africa as well. This feels like something out of a doomsday movie. The increased strength of viral strains due to medication noncompliance.

From The Chronicle Newspaper (Lilongwe) by Moses Kaufa.

In Malawi, Tuberculosis (TB) is closely linked to the HIV epidemic. Of the 28,000 cases of TB reported in the year 2005, approximately 70% of the patients tested HIV positive.

Although TB can be cured, the recent surfacing of an Extensively Drug Resistant-TB (XDR-TB) in South Africa is cause for concern.

With the current official rate of 14% HIV infection in Malawi and the link between HIV and TB, the need to put TB firmly on the political agenda of the country has become more necessary and urgent.

The government, through the Ministry of Health and the National TB Control Programme has committed to making sure that there a plan in place to respond effectively should any cases of XDR-TB surface in Malawi.

Advocacy, Communication and Social Mobilization (ACSM) an initiated component of the Malawi National TB Control Programme, seeks to create awareness, facilitate community involvement and participation and promote activities that will inform the public on the importance of adhering to treatment and medical advice for Tuberculosis in an effort to avoid the possible development of the fatal, Extremely Drug Resistant TB (XDR-TB).

Henry Chimbali, the Communications Officer of the National TB Control Program, ACSM has embarked on an advocacy campaign involving activities designed to place TB high on the political and development agenda.

The campaign also aims to increase financial and other resources on a sustainable basis as well as hold authorities to account. Additionally, the campaign seeks to ensure that pledges are fulfilled at the local level.

A major and very important part of the campaign is to prevent the possible development of the deadly XDR-TB in Malawi.

Reports indicate that XDR-TB probably developed because cases of normal TB are not treated properly. TB that is not effectively treated will resurface with resistance to the drugs used in the treatment and become Multi Drug Resistant - TB (MDR-TB). Concerns are high that XDR-TB could develop if patients are not aware of the importance of following the strict medical regime necessary to treat MDR- TB.

Records indicate that no one knows yet exactly how many cases of XDR-TB exist but surveillance shows that countries most affected by TB are those that are poor.

Chimbali told Health Check that XDR-TB mostly develops in patients who at one time used the drugs for other ailments or if they had defaulted in the treatment of TB.

However, the infection of XDR-TB is transmitted in the same way as the standard TB.

He says the intervention embarked on by ACSM seeks to prevent any possible occurrence of XDR-TB in this country and the further spread of infections should it occur.

"The program will be looking at adherence and compliance of treatment. This will be achieved by ensuring that all TB patients are under closely supervised treatment and all health workers have adequate knowledge on TB treatment guidelines. There will be a need to engage more health care providers in TB treatment monitoring, strengthening treatment monitoring systems at all levels and intensifying proper diagnosis of all TB suspect cases," Chimbali said.

He said the program is also focusing on prevention and control of the transmission of XDR-TB to health workers and the public.

"This will be achieved through early diagnosis of all TB treatment failures, relapses and tracing of all treatment defaulters and the establishment of special treatment centers for XDR-TB," said the Communications Officer.

XDR-TB is said to be very difficult to treat as it involves a regime that lasts for a long period of time. Drugs to treat the infection are extremely expensive making access to treatment of XDR-TB impossible for many under-privileged people

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