[Multiple drug resistance: a threat for tuberculosis control]

Ernesto Montoro Cardoso
Pan American Journal of Public Health 2004, 16 (1): 68-73
Drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) was reported soon after the introduction of streptomycin, although it did not receive major attention until recently. It was not considered a major issue in the industrialized world until outbreaks of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) were reported among HIV infected people. Administration of standard short-course chemotherapy (SSCC) with first-line drugs under directly observed therapy (DOT) is the cornerstone of modern TB control. Unfortunately, data available on the treatment outcome of MDR-TB cases under routine programmatic conditions suggest that patients with MDR-TB respond poorly to SSCC with first-line drugs. Since 1994, the World Health Organization and the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (IU-ATLD) have conducted anti-TB drug resistance surveys through a network of subregional laboratories and researchers. Drug resistance was present in almost all settings surveyed, and prevalence varied widely across regions. High prevalence of MDR-TB is widespread in the Russian Federation and areas of the former Soviet Union (Estonia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, and Lithuania) as well as Israel, Liaoning and Henan Provinces in China, and Ecuador. The Global Project has surveyed areas representing over one third of notified TB cases. However, enormous gaps still exist in the most crucial areas. The most effective strategy to prevent the emergence of drug resistance is through implementation of the directly observed treatment short (DOTS) strategy. Effective implementation of the DOTS strategy saves lives through decreased TB transmission, decreased risk of emergence of drug-resistance, and decreased risk for individual TB patients of treatment failure, TB relapse, and death. The World Bank recognizes the DOTS strategy as one of the most cost-effective health interventions, and recommends that effective TB treatment be a part of the essential clinical services package available in primary health care settings. Governments are responsible for ensuring the provision of effective TB control through the DOTS strategy. WHO and its international partners have formed the DOTS-Plus Working Group, which is attempting to determine the best possible strategy to manage MDR-TB. One of the goals of DOTS-Plus is to increase access to expensive second-line anti-TB drugs for WHO-approved TB control programmes in low- and middle-income countries.

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