China faces 'serious' epidemic of drug-resistant TB (Update)

June 6, 2012

China faces a "serious epidemic" of drug-resistant tuberculosis according to the first-ever nationwide estimate of the size of the problem there, said a US-published study on Wednesday.

"In 2007, one third of the patients with new cases of tuberculosis and one half of the patients with previously treated tuberculosis had drug-resistant disease," said the study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Even more, the prevalence of multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB in new cases (5.7 percent) was nearly twice the global average, said the study.

Using World Health Organization figures as a basis for comparison, "China has the highest annual number of cases of MDR tuberculosis in the world -- a quarter of the cases worldwide," it added.

"China has a serious epidemic of drug-resistant tuberculosis."

The data came from a survey of more than 4,600 Chinese people who were recently diagnosed or treated for TB.

Patients for the study were treated at local TB clinics, not hospitals, and the survey was conducted by the National Tuberculosis Reference Laboratory (NTRL) of the Chinese Centers for Disease Control.

According to an accompanying editorial by Johns Hopkins University infectious disease specialist Richard Chaisson, the growth of drug-resistant TB presents an "enormous challenge."

Even more concerning was the finding that most of the 110,000 drug-resistant cases were in people newly diagnosed with the disease, suggesting that the virulent bacteria are being transmitted from person to person and not developing solely as a result of a person prematurely stopping treatment.

"MDR tuberculosis is linked to inadequate treatment in both the public health system and the hospital system, especially tuberculosis hospitals; however, primary transmission accounts for most cases," said the study.

Chaisson said the findings highlight the need for faster testing, and for new cases of TB to be tested for signs of drug resistance, not just recurrent forms.

In China, over one million new tuberculosis infections occur each year -- a large chunk of the estimated nine million new cases worldwide annually.

Known formally as Mycobacterium tuberculosis, TB spreads through the air when infected people cough up bacteria. TB kills about 1.5 million people worldwide each year.

Often it can be cured with antibiotics, though drug availability is limited in the developing world and sometimes patients do not follow the entire regimen of treatment, which can encourage the development of resistant strains.

The study was funded by the Chinese Ministry of Health.

Explore further: Management of TB cases falls short of international standards

Related Stories

Management of TB cases falls short of international standards

February 9, 2012
The management of tuberculosis cases in the European Union (EU) is not meeting international standards, according to new research.

Tuberculosis cases decline worldwide: WHO

October 11, 2011
For the first time on record, fewer people worldwide are getting sick from tuberculosis, but cash is short in the fight against drug-resistant forms of the disease, the World Health Organization said Tuesday.

Recommended for you

Scientists develop infection model for tickborne flaviviruses

August 22, 2017
National Institutes of Health (NIH) scientists have filled a research gap by developing a laboratory model to study ticks that transmit flaviviruses, such as Powassan virus. Powassan virus was implicated in the death of a ...

Zika virus stifles pregnant women's weakened immune system to harm baby, study finds

August 21, 2017
The Zika virus, linked to congenital birth defects and miscarriages, suppresses a pregnant woman's immune system, enabling the virus to spread and increasing the chances an unborn baby will be harmed, a Keck School of Medicine ...

Fatty liver can cause damage to other organs via crosstalk

August 21, 2017
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is increasingly common. Approximately every third adult in industrialized countries has a morbidly fatty liver. This not only increases the risk of chronic liver diseases such as liver cirrhosis ...

Novel approach to track HIV infection

August 18, 2017
Northwestern Medicine scientists have developed a novel method of tracking HIV infection, allowing the behavior of individual virions—infectious particles—to be connected to infectivity.

Faulty gene linked to obesity in adults

August 18, 2017
Groundbreaking new research linking obesity and metabolic dysfunction to a problem in the energy generators in cells has been published by researchers from the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research and The University ...

Two lung diseases killed 3.6 million in 2015: study

August 17, 2017
The two most common chronic lung diseases claimed 3.6 million lives worldwide in 2015, according to a tally published Thursday in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.