Drug resistant TB cases surge

HARARE - The tuberculosis scourge in Zimbabwe shows no sign of respite with the number of multi-drug resistant cases rising across the country, a preliminary research paper says.

Experts now fear reversal of successes registered so far against MultiDrug Resistance Tuberculosis (MDR TB).

This follows a baseline study done by a number of TB experts in Harare between 2011 and 2012.

Subjects were recruited from outpatient clinics within Harare’s two infectious disease referral hospitals, health clinics in high-density suburbs.

“A representative drug-resistance surveillance study is urgently needed to estimate the prevalence of  MDR TB in the general population of Zimbabwe,” reads the study’s deduction.

“Twenty of 84 specimens were consistent with MDR TB.

“In our sample, one-quarter of smear-positive, previously treated patients had MDR TB, suggesting that MDR TB cases in the country may exceed 1 000 among re-treatment patients alone.”

The study, which focused on measuring the burden of drug-resistant Tuberculosis in high-risk groups, was led  by John Metcalfe, University of California assistant professor in the division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine.

He is also lecturers at the University of Zimbabwe’s College of Health Sciences.

Zimbabwe is among countries with the highest estimated TB incidence per capita in the world with 603 per 100 000 population, according to the World Health Organisation Global tuberculosis report of 2012.

Sixteen percent of adults are HIV infected and, according to the report, approximately three-quarters of active TB cases occur among persons with HIV.

Meltcafe supposes socially-induced movements of Zimbabweans could be triggering the rise.

“Increasing prevalence and epidemic spread of MDR TB in neighbouring southern Africa countries, socio-political instability with economic collapse and severe health system disruptions in 2007 to 2008 and anecdotal reports of MDR TB among Zimbabwean returnees may herald an increase in MDR TB prevalence within the country,” he said.

Formal national surveillance for drug-resistant TB has not been undertaken in Zimbabwe since 1995.

The specialists performed extensive microbiologic testing on samples obtained from high risk patients from Harare.

The emergence of MDR TB in sub-Saharan Africa could further destabilise regional TB control programmes, the paper says.

“Yet, fewer than half of the 46 countries in the World Health Organisation (WHO) African region have provided representative drug-resistance data, and only 10 have reported data since 2007,” read the preliminary research.

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