Steps To Fight Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis
UN Health Task Force Outlines Steps To Fight Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis
New York, Oct 17 2006 2:00PM
With the emergence of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) posing a serious threat to public health, particularly when associated with HIV, the United Nations health agency today called on countries to immediately strengthen their control of the disease.
Announcing the results of last week’s first meeting of its Global Task Force on XDR-TB, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) also outlined plans to help mobilize teams that can respond to requests for technical assistance from countries and be deployed at short notice to XDR-TB risk areas.
“It is critical that urgent steps are taken to address XDR-TB, especially in areas of high HIV prevalence,” WHO Acting Director-General Anders Nordström told the Task Force at its meeting in Geneva on 9 and 10 October. “At the same time we should not lose sight of the need to make long-standing improvements to strengthen TB controῬ, and build the necessary capacity in health services to respond to drug-resistant tuberculosis.
The Task Force also made specific recommendations on drug-resistant TB surveillance methods and laboratory capacity measures; implementing infection control measures to protect patients, health care workers and visitors, particularly those who are HIV infected; and access to second-line anti-TB and antiretroviral drugs for countries.
It also called for information-sharing strategies related to XDR-TB prevention, control, and treatment, including co-management with antiretroviral therapy; and research and development of new TB drugs, vaccines and diagnostic tests.
WHO and Task Force members will now coordinate with national and international partners involved in TB, as well as HIV prevention, care and treatment, to take the recommendations forward. They will also develop a plan that identifies the resources required to implement these outcomes and the overall emergency response.
Drug-resistant TB has emerged as an increasing threat to TB control but a WHO/United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention study published earlier this year documented for the first time cases of tuberculosis that were extensively resistant to current drug treatments. XDR-TB was identified in all regions of the world, though it is still thought to be relatively uncommon.
Last month concerns were heightened by reports from KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa of high mortality rates in HIV-positive people with XDR-TB, leading to warnings that XDR-TB could seriously threaten the considerable progress being made in countries on TB control and the scaling up of universal access to HIV treatment and prevention.