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Fight against tuberculosis a mixed bag
October 17th, 2012
04:47 PM ET

Fight against tuberculosis a mixed bag

More than 20 million people with tuberculosis (TB) are living today because of successful care and treatment, according to a new report by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The WHO's Global Tuberculosis Report 2012 found that access to care has been expanded significantly and over the last 17 years, 51 million people have been cured of the disease worldwide.  The number of new cases has been on the decline for the last few years.  Since 1990, the TB mortality rate decreased 41%, but the news is still mixed.

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Treatment lapses may increase TB drug resistance
August 29th, 2012
06:35 PM ET

Treatment lapses may increase TB drug resistance

The prevention of multidrug-resistant (MDR) and extensively drug-resistant (XDR) tuberculosis can be tenuous when treatment programs aren't followed properly.

In a prospective cohort study of 1,278 patients from eight countries published in the journal Lancet, researchers found that 43.7% of patients with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis also showed resistance to at least one second-line drug.

Second-line antibiotics are used in treatment when the first line of antibiotics fails. However, these drugs are more expensive, can cause more side effects and must be taken for up to two years.

Further, extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis was found in 6.7% of the patients, a figure on par with the World Health Organization's estimate that 9.4% of the global population has XDR.

"[The study] shows really clearly that messy treatment of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis generates extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis," said Dr. Karin Weyer, a coordinator for laboratories, diagnostics, and drug resistance at the WHO's Stop TB unit.

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Simplifying treatment for TB without symptoms
May 16th, 2011
01:10 PM ET

Simplifying treatment for TB without symptoms

The findings of a large government trial show a treatment regimen that differs from the standard therapy may be effective in treating the latent form of tuberculosis.

About 11 million people in the U.S. are infected with latent tuberculosis, which is symptom-free and is not contagious.   Of those, 5 to 10 percent will go on to develop active TB, which can be spread to others and can be fatal if not properly treated.

Researchers looked at 8,000 people with latent TB, mostly in the United States or Canada. They were randomly given one of two treatments- the standard course of therapy, which takes nine months of daily treatment, or a once-weekly treatment for three months. The standard treatment is isoniazid. The experimental regimen combined isoniazid with rifapentine.

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Many factors in infectious disease uptick
November 2nd, 2010
10:56 AM ET

Many factors in infectious disease uptick

Cases of some infectious diseases that haven’t been seen in decades are making a comeback. In California there are nearly 6,000 cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, and other diseases such as measles, mumps and tuberculosis have returned. There are several reasons why these diseases are back: Some are cyclical; some have become resistant to current vaccines; some vaccines wear off so booster shots are needed; and there is the fear that some vaccines could cause other illnesses. Immigration also can be a factor, especially for tuberculosis but also for other diseases long eradicated from this country but still occurring in other parts of the world.

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February 10th, 2010
10:32 AM ET

Inside TB quarantine tents

CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has returned to Haiti on assignment. He reports that doctors treating Haitians are worried that drug-resistant tuberculosis could spread worldwide.


June 10th, 2008
05:15 PM ET

Global focus on HIV/TB link

By Miriam Falco
CNN Medical Managing Editor

You may not know it, but the first-ever high level meeting on HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis is underway at the United Nations right now. The former president of Portugal and UN Secretary General's Special Envoy to Stop TB, Dr. Jorge Sampaio, told reporters yesterday that the "meeting was convened to draw the attention of the world to a much neglected topic" – how TB is affecting HIV/AIDS patients and vice versa.

People living with HIV/AIDS cannot be cured, but they can live longer, with the help of antiretroviral drugs. Thanks to generous donations from the Global Fund,  UNAIDS, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. PEPFAR plan – the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, even people in the poorest countries are gaining access to these life-saving drugs.

The Global Fund even documented some intriguing stories of people being pulled from the brink of death by taking anti-retroviral drugs in a collection of photographs taken by some of the world's best photographers. These pictures and stories go on display at the Mellon Library in Washington DC tomorrow, June 11th.  You can see a special preview here.

However, too many HIV/AIDS patients aren't living long enough to reap the benefits of antiretrovirals because they've dying of TB first. The World Health Organization says an estimated one third of people living with HIV or AIDS also are infected with TB. If you're one of those people, you're up to 50 times more likely to develop TB than non-HIV infected people and the WHO says TB kills up to half of all AIDS patients worldwide.

The statistics for TB around the world are quite startling. According to the latest figures from the CDC, approxiamately 2 billion people, or one third of the worlds population carry the bacteria that causes tuberculosis - that doesn't mean they have active TB, but they could develop it.

The WHO says "HIV is the most potent risk factor for converting latent TB into active TB, while TB bacteria accelerates the progress of AIDS infection in the patient." Dr. Jim Reichman from the New Jersey Medical School Global Tuberculosis Institute puts it another way: "TB accelerates AIDS and AIDS accelerates TB."

The CDC also says 16 percent of TB cases among 25-44 year-olds in the United States in 2005 were occuring in HIV infected people.

So you may not have HIV or AIDS or TB for that matter and may not live in a poor country with fewer resources to control these diseases. But, as we all learned a year ago in the Andrew Speaker case, we may be just a vacation away or a a plane trip away from coming in contact with someone carrying TB. Speaker, you may recall, is the Atlanta lawyer who contracted TB while traveling in Asia and later flew to and from Europe, knowing he had multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.

“TB is preventable and curable and it's been so for decades" says Dr. Reichmann. This is why health officials are trying to convince the global leaders gathering at the U.N. today, to encourage countries around the world to invest more in TB prevention and treatment. To paraphrase many TB & AIDS experts, to control TB anywhere, you have to control it everywhere. But so far there's no big celebrity sponsored campaign to raise a lot of money for eradicating TB. That's why Dr. Marcos Espinal, Executive Secretary of the Stop TB Partnership told reporters yesterday, "what's highly needed is a global plan for TB and that countries embrace the plan" in order to stop the spread of HIV and TB.

Editor’s Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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