Search

 

Cablegate: Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis in Thailand: Global Risks

VZCZCXRO1586
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHBK #3439/01 1720851
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 210851Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7763
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASH DC
RUEHPH/CDC ATLANTA GA
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHGO/AMEMBASSY RANGOON 4060

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 003439

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS AND EB
COMMERCE FOR EAP/MAC/OKSA
TREASURY FOR OASIA
STATE PASS TO USTR FOR WEISEL
STATE PASS TO FEDERAL RESERVE SAN FRANCISCO FOR DAN FINEMAN
STATE PASS FEDERAL RESERVE NEW YORK FOR MATT HILDEBRANDT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EAID PGOV PHUM PREL TH
SUBJECT: MULTI-DRUG RESISTANT TUBERCULOSIS IN THAILAND: GLOBAL RISKS

REFS: A) Rangoon 588 B) Rangoon 134

This is a joint-cable between the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok and the
U.S. Embassy in Rangoon.

Summary
-----------

1. Collaborative efforts between the CDC and the Thai Ministry of
Public Health (MOPH) have improved the accuracy of testing and
reporting of tuberculosis (TB) cases in Thailand. As a result,
health authorities here better understand the prevalence of
multi-drug resistant (MDR) and extensively drug-resistant (XDR) TB.
There are several hotspots for MDR TB in Thailand. Tak Province,
located along the Burma/Thai border is one such hotspot, where 10%
of culture-confirmed TB cases are MDR. Recently, two migrants from
Burma were diagnosed with XDR TB in Tak. The emergence of XDR TB and
the high rate of MDR TB in Tak Province are due to poor compliance
of patients with TB treatment and lack of appropriate diagnostic and
treatment services for populations originating in Burma. The
political situation in Burma shows no signs of abating and the
displaced will continue to travel into Thailand, some of them
settling in refugee camps in Tak Province. Migrants will also
continue to travel to Thailand as long as it offers better economic
opportunity and access to higher quality health services. Without
improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of TB patients in Burma,
the numbers of MDR and XDR TB cases are expected to increase in
Burma and subsequently Thailand. This potentially has global health
implications due to the ongoing resettlement of refugees from Burma
to the United States, as well as Thais traveling internationally.
We recommend seeking HHS agreement to permit CDC personnel to travel
to Burma to assist with reducing the spread of this threat. End
Summary.

2. Thailand's ability to accurately diagnose and effectively treat
TB is improving. However, many Thai health professionals still do
not use sputum cultures to test for TB, which is the most accurate
way to diagnose TB and MDR TB. Sputum culture tests are time
consuming, more expensive and require laboratory capabilities that
are not available in many Thai hospitals. The Thai MOPH - U.S. CDC
Collaboration is currently trying to improve this situation by
building laboratory capacity in five provinces in Thailand,
including Tak. In regards to treatment, most patients in Thailand
do not receive directly observed therapy by a health care worker
(DOT). DOT involves medical staff or trained personnel directly
observing the ingestion the TB medications. DOT is recommended by
WHO and CDC as the most effective way to treat TB. It protects the
patient's health and prevents drug resistance by ensuring compliance
with the drug regimen. Many Thai hospitals give patients the option
of using DOT, but do not require it. Thailand's failure to use DOT
may contribute to MDR. In 2001, 1% of all TB patients in Thailand
had MDR TB. Preliminary data from a Thai MOPH survey currently
underway indicate that the number of MDR TB cases in Thailand may
have doubled since then. CDC is currently working with the Thai MOPH
to measure the number of XDR TB cases nationally in Thailand.

3. In Burma, a 2002/03 survey demonstrated 4% MDR TB among new
patients and 15.5% among previously treated patients. Diagnosing and
treating these patients is complicated by the overall poor state of
the public health system, restrictions on the delivery of assistance
in many areas, and conflict in border areas. Reftels describe in
more detail the challenges facing TB programs operating in Burma.
Among the most important are: late case diagnosis, lack of a
standardized treatment regimen, and inadequate funding for basic
diagnostic tests and medications.

4. Tak Province is a convenient crossing point for Burmese migrants
and displaced persons. On June 7, 2007, a Doctors Without Borders TB
clinic for Burmese migrants in Tak Province reported that 2 cases of
XDR TB had been diagnosed in migrants from Burma; the diagnoses was
confirmed by laboratory testing done at the Thai MOPH reference
laboratory. Approximately 10% of all culture-confirmed cases in Tak
Province are MDR TB, most of which are diagnosed in migrants from
Burma. The emergence of XDR TB and the large number of MDR TB cases
in Tak is directly caused by the weak infrastructure of the TB
program in Burma and amplified by weaknesses in the Thai TB program.
Migrants from Burma who are treated for TB in Thailand report that

BANGKOK 00003439 002 OF 003


TB clinics in Burma, particularly along the border, have limited or
no staff and do not have a consistent supply of quality medicines.
These migrants with TB report purchasing anti-TB medicines from
pharmacies or private doctors in Burma and taking these medicines
haphazardly. Normally, TB can be cured by taking medication for six
months to one year. Failure to take medications consistently and
correctly, poor quality of medications, and poor record keeping can
disrupt the treatment process and cause the TB bacteria to become
resistant to first-line and second-line (reserve) drugs.

5. A mobile population makes it particularly difficult to diagnose
and treat TB. In order to determine if TB is either MDR or XDR, a
sputum sample must be sent to an appropriate lab, where a culture
test is performed. After TB bacilli is grown in culture, the
laboratory can test whether the bacteria is resistant to first and
second line drugs. This entire process takes approximately four to
six weeks using the best techniques, and if the patient is mobile,
it may be difficult to locate them once the results are known. In
this case, the patient will not be able to receive treatment and
could infect others.

6. CDC and the Thai MOPH suspect that there are high rates of MDR TB
in migrants and displaced people along the border between Thailand
and Burma. Their suspicions are based on the fact that there is a
high prevalence of MDR TB in the same populations in Tak Province
and that XDR TB has now been identified in migrants from Burma.
Furthermore, Burma does not have the medical infrastructure to
accurately test and effectively treat TB. The political situation in
Burma shows no signs of abating and it is reasonable to conclude
that the flow of migrants and displaced people will not stop in the
near future. Therefore, CDC expects that highly resistant strains of
TB will continue to emerge in Burma, particularly along the border
with Thailand.

7. The increase in the number of cases of MDR and the emergence of
XDR TB in Tak Province could have global health implications if
allowed to continue unchecked. This is best illustrated by the
Hmong refugee resettlement in 2004 - 2005. Despite the CDC's best
efforts to screen those bound for the US, 37 refugees were diagnosed
with TB upon arrival in the U.S. and four of those cases were MDR.
The increased mobility of Thais also poses a threat to the health of
countries in Southeast Asia. Porous borders with Laos and Cambodia
and an increased standard of living in Thailand make it possible for
Thais to travel frequently throughout the region. Frequent travel,
especially by airplane, could facilitate the spread of MDR TB.

8. Recently, USAID in Bangkok, the World Health Organization's
office in Burma, and Embassy/Rangoon have requested assistance from
CDC Bangkok staff in improving TB programs in Burma. However, we
understand that CDC has been unable to respond to requests, because
HHS policy does not permit travel to Burma. U.S. foreign policy
permits humanitarian assistance to the people of Burma through
non-governmental and multi-lateral organizations. USAID and the
State Department currently have health programs operating in this
manner in Burma. These programs include global health threats, such
as Avian Influenza. If permitted to travel to Burma, CDC personnel
could assist State Department, USAID, and their partners (including
multi-lateral organizations and non-governmental organizations) in
assessing and addressing the threat of drug resistant TB, consistent
with U.S. government foreign policy.


Comment
-----------

9. In light of the current situation involving the transnational
spread of XDR TB from Burma into Thailand, we request that the
Department meet with HHS to change its policy on restricting CDC
personnel from traveling to Burma. This is a regional health issue
with potential global health and economic implications. Health
organizations in Burma are unable to quell the spread of MDR TB in
Burma by themselves and require technical assistance. Due to
political repression and limited economic opportunity in Burma,
migration is spreading MDR and XDR TB to Thailand. The Thai health
authorities are better poised to diagnose and treat MDR TB than the
Burmese, but their surveillance and treatment programs are still
under development and we believe that most infected patients are not
identified before leaving the border area. As a result, there is the

BANGKOK 00003439 003 OF 003


potential for the number of MDR cases to increase in Thailand and
there is also the potential for it to spread to the U.S. (especially
through U.S. policies for resettling certain refugee populations)
and neighboring countries. End comment.
Boyce

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Gordon Campbell: On The Washington Riot And The Georgia Results
Hong Kong and Washington DC. On the same morning, the tyrants in power in Beijing and their counterpart in the White House have shown how they refuse to accept the legitimacy of any different points of view, and the prospect of losing power… More>>

WHO: Vaccination No Guarantee Of Virus Eradication

In the final World Health Organization (WHO) COVID-19 press conference of the year, on Monday, senior officials warned that the virus is 'not necessarily the big one', and that there is a real chance of another, more serious pandemic spreading ... More>>

Covid: Two Billion COVID Vaccine Doses Secured, WHO Says End Of Pandemic Is In Sight

The end of the pandemic is in sight but we must not let our guard down, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday, as he welcomed the news that the global vaccine partnership COVAX has lined up almost two billion doses of existing ... More>>

UN: Guterres To Seek Second Five-year Term
António Guterres will be seeking a second five-year term as UN Secretary-General, which would begin in January 2022.... More>>


UN Rights Office: Iran Execution Of Child Offender Breaks International Law

The execution of an Iranian man for a crime allegedly committed when he was 16 years old has been condemned by the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) and raised concerns over violations of his right to a fair trial. In a statement released on Thursday, ... More>>

UN News: Fighting Displaces Over 500,000 In Northern Mozambique, Reports UN Refuge Agency

Attacks by armed groups in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado, Nampula, Zambezia and Niassa provinces have displaced more than 530,000 people, many of whom have been forced to move multiple times, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Friday. According to ... More>>