drug resistance

Patients wait in a well-ventilated area outside the TB clinic in Homa Bay, Kenya. {Photo credit: A. Kwiecien and A. Salakaia / MSH.}Photo credit: A. Kwiecien and A. Salakaia / MSH.

The state of tuberculosis (TB) is in a tug-of-war as current challenges threaten to undo past successes. One of the primary hurdles currently facing TB prevention and cure is the emergence of strains that are resistant to at least two of the most effective medicines (rifampicin and isoniazid).

So-called drug-resistant (DR)-TB arises when patients are unable to complete a full-course of appropriate, high quality anti-TB medicines. As compared with the 6 month treatment regimen for drug-sensitive (DS)-TB, DR-TB requires 18-24 months of treatment with medicines that are less effective, can cause sometimes severe side effects, and can cost up to 300 times more.

Drug Therapeutic Committee training course in Kampala, Uganda.

As we celebrate World Health Day on April 7, 2011, the global health community is focusing on an increasingly dangerous health challenge---drug resistance. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR)---defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the resistance of a microorganism to an antimicrobial medicine to which it was previously sensitive---is a global public health threat that is rapidly wiping out the effectiveness of many first-line treatments. It undermines major public health achievements in treating infectious diseases such as HIV & AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and sexually transmitted infections. Not only is AMR a complex, cross-cutting problem affecting a wide variety of sectors, but it has crossed all national, geographical, and ethnic boundaries and is spreading globally.

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