Entries in Tuberculosis (9)


It’s World Tuberculosis Day: 5 Things You Didn't Know About TB

Duncan Smith/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The lung disease Tuberculosis kills nearly 1.5 million people each year, mostly in developing countries. World Tuberculosis Day is observed on March 24 to "raise awareness about the burden of tuberculosis (TB) worldwide and the status of TB prevention and control efforts," according to the World Health Organization. With that in mind, here are five things you might not have known about this deadly disease.

1.    Tuberculosis Is Caused by Bacteria and Spread Through the Air

According to the World Health Organization, "when people with lung TB cough, sneeze or spit, they propel the TB germs into the air. A person needs to inhale only a few of these germs to become infected."

The symptoms include fever, bloody cough and fatigue.

2.    Tuberculosis Is Growing More Resistant to Treatment Worldwide

Although TB is curable, the treatment regimen requires patients dutifully to take multiple antibiotics daily for several months, and if there are any deviations from protocol or incomplete courses, the bacteria can easily develop a resistance to the drugs.

The WHO estimates that about 5 percent of the cases of this disease are multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. Known as MDR-TB, these bacteria have developed resistance to two of the first-line tuberculosis drugs, isoniazid and rifampicin. An even more resistant strain of TB exists.  XDR-TB was first reported in 2006 and are resistant to several types of drugs. While MDR-TB is difficult and costly to treat, XDR-TB is even harder.

3.    Tuberculosis Is Global Threat

Tuberculosis kills at least 1.34 million people each year worldwide. And now the disease, once curable with antibiotics, is becoming resistant to multiple drugs.

Although most cases of TB and multidrug-resistant TB are found in developing countries, the disease, which kills at least 1.34 million people worldwide each year has been found in developed country as well. According to WHO data, 92 cases of multidrug-resistant TB were reported in the United States in 2011.

4.    People With Weak Immune Systems Are More Susceptible to Getting TB

People with weak immune systems or those who have HIV are at greater risk in contracting TB. It is the leading killer of people with HIV, according to WHO. Additionally, according to the WHO, smoking and tobacco use make people more susceptible to TB, and their data says that more than 20 percent of TB cases globally are attributable to smoking.

5.    Drug-Resistant TB Could Bring Back Sanatoria, Secluded Hospitals

Before the advent of antibiotics, people with infectious diseases like tuberculosis were sent to sanatoria, secluded hospitals that healed through good food, fresh air and sunlight. The isolated buildings also quarantined infected patients, thwarting the spread of contagious and dangerous diseases. Before the advent of the drug rifampicin in the 1960’s, some sanatoria housed several thousand patients at once.

Now, in regions of the world increasingly burdened by drug-resistant TB, sanatoria might be coming back. But the recent emergence of new, antibiotic-resistant strains of the disease-causing bacteria in South Africa has prompted a call for the return of sanitoria.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Tuberculosis in US Hits Lowest Levels Ever

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The rate of tuberculosis hit an all-time low in the United States in 2012, with fewer than 10,000 new cases reported.

With World Tuberculosis Day on Sunday, the Center for Disease Control's National Tuberculosis Surveillance System reported that the rate of Tuberculosis dropped 6.1 percent from 2011. The CDC's statistics mark the 20th consecutive year of decreasing occurrence of the deadly disease.

The statistics, published in the journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, found that out of the 3,413 counties in the U.S., 44.2 percent reported zero new cases of TB between 2010 and 2012.

Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that most often affects the lungs. It is spread by caughing and sneezing, and can be fatal.

While the frequency of the disease is at it's lowest ever in the United States, there is still work to be done. Foreign-born people have higher rates of TB than U.S.-born citizens. Additionally, racial and ethnic minorities have higher rates of contraction than whites.

The study is based on provisional TB data provided by the 50 states and the District of Columbia, and case rates are based on estimated population numbers. Final statistics will be reported by the CDC later in the year.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Tuberculosis Outbreak Hits LA Homeless

Comstock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- Tuberculosis appears to be on the rise among Los Angeles County’s vulnerable homeless population, prompting the county health department to seek federal help.

In the last five years, the county health department reported 78 people with the bacterial disease in or around the skid row neighborhood. Sixty of them were known to be homeless.

“It’s a well-defined population and a relatively small geographic area with a difficult population to work with, so we’re putting a concentrated effort into making sure these individuals who are already vulnerable are getting attention,” Dr. Jonathan Fielding, who directs the LA County Department of Public Health, told ABC News.

Fielding’s department has called upon the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and people who work in the homeless shelters to help identify and test people with tuberculosis symptoms, which include a cough that lasts more than three weeks, coughing up blood, weight loss, night sweats, fatigue and fever.

This particular strain of the disease is sensitive to drugs, so treatment is effective if the patient is able to get help and follow up with it, Fielding said. However, eight people who got the disease also had HIV, rendering their immune systems less able to fight it off. Of those, six died.

“It’s a very bad combination, especially if it’s not being adequately treated,” Fielding said.

Fielding said 4,650 people frequent the local homeless shelters from time to time and could, therefore, have been exposed to tuberculosis. The disease is airborne, but not as contagious as the cold or flu. It spreads by “fairly close contact” with infected individuals over an “extended period of time,” he said.

“You don’t get tuberculosis from being next to someone or walking down the street,” Fielding said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


FDA Approves Johnson & Johnson Drug for Tuberculosis

Cristina Arias/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave its stamp of approval to Johnson & Johnson's drug, called Sirturo, that will treat a drug-resistant form of tuberculosis.

This form of tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is a bacterial infection, resistant to multiple drugs, and can be fatal. It affects as many as 630,000 people globally, although it is not as common in the U.S., according to Dr. Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer and worldwide chairman at Johnson & Johnson.  

Though less than 100 cases of MDR-TB have been reported in the U.S., Stoffels says the FDA's approval of Sirturo, also called bedaquiline, "is a significant step" in fighting the global disease.  In fact, the company does not expect the drug to be a large driver of revenue.  Johnson & Johnson spokesperson Pamela Van Houten said that "commercial opportunity is very limited," according to a Wall Street Journal report.

"This is part of our commitment to advance innovative medicines that help address serious public-health issues," Van Houten said.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Johnson & Johnson expects to begin selling Sirturo in the second quarter of 2013. The company will hold off on announcing the drug's sales price until that time.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Tuberculosis Becoming More Drug-Resistant Worldwide

John Foxx/Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Tuberculosis is growing more resistant to treatment worldwide, according to a study released Wednesday in the journal The Lancet -- a finding that suggests the potentially fatal disease is becoming more difficult and costly to treat.

Currently, 8.8 million patients worldwide are infected with tuberculosis, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Although it is curable, the treatment regimen requires patients dutifully to take multiple antibiotics daily for several months -- and if there are any deviations from protocol or incomplete courses, drug resistance develops easily.

The WHO estimates that about 5 percent of the cases of this disease are multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, or MDR-TB -- in other words, caused by bacteria that have developed resistance to two of the first-line tuberculosis drugs, isoniazid and rifampicin.

Worse, as additional antibiotics are being thrown at the disease, forms that are even more resistant have begun to emerge. First reported in 2006, cases of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) are resistant to drugs called fluoroquinolones, as well as to one of the three available intravenous drugs. While MDR-TB is difficult and costly to treat, XDR-TB is even harder.

The Lancet study looked at 1,278 MDR-TB patients from eight countries. The researchers found that nearly 44 percent had already developed resistance not only to the two first-line drugs, but to at least one second-line drug as well. Additionally, the researchers found that 6.7 percent of the patients had developed resistance to at least two second-line drugs -- thus classifying them as having XDR-TB.

In this study, the strongest risk factors for drug resistance were previous treatment with second-line drugs -- indicating that prior treatments were ineffectual and exacerbated the resistance of the tuberculosis. Other factors associated with resistance to second-line injectable drugs were unemployment, a history of imprisonment, alcohol abuse and smoking.

The study, known as the Preserving Effective TB Treatment Study (PETTS), was launched by the International Working Group on MDR tuberculosis and coordinated through the health departments in Estonia, Latvia, Peru, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, South Korea and Thailand. Drug-susceptibility testing was performed at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The figures offered by the new study, though alarming, appear to be close to what international health officials expected. While the new number is higher than a figure in a 2010 WHO report, which indicated that only 5.4 percent of MDR-TB patients had XDR-TB in the same time period, an even more recent update by the WHO estimates a prevalence of 9.4 percent of MDR-TB patients with the XDR-TB mutations.

"The global emergency of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis heralds the advent of widespread, virtually untreatable tuberculosis," lead author Tracy Dalton of the Centers for Disease Control writes in the report.

Because tuberculosis can easily be transmitted through droplets in the air -- as occurs when someone with the disease coughs -- the disease is a menace to public health. In 2010, 1.1 million people worldwide died from tuberculosis.

"These results show that XDR tuberculosis is increasingly a cause for concern, especially in areas where prevalence of MDR tuberculosis is high," Sven Hoffner of the department of preparedness at the Swedish Institute for Communicable Disease Control in Sweden writes in a commentary to accompany the new study.

"The true scale of the burden of MDR and XDR tuberculosis might be underestimated and seem to be rapidly increasing."

While experts grow increasingly concerned about the growing resistance of antibiotics to tuberculosis, some advocate a different approach -- prevention.

"The genome of tuberculosis is highly plastic, so we will always be 'chasing our tail' in terms of antibiotic-driven approaches," says Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute. "This study points to the urgency for accelerating the development of a [tuberculosis] vaccine."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Tuberculosis Scare in California: Dozens of Babies Exposed

Comstock/Thinkstock(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- Sacramento and Solano County officials have been working swiftly in the past few days to contain possible tuberculosis cases in 35 babies who were exposed to the disease when housed in two hospital neonatal intensive care units, The Huffington Post reports.
Sacramento County Officials as well as hospital officials have been attempting to contact the parents of all the babies exposed. At such a young age, babies are especially vulnerable to the infectious disease.
The carrier of the disease has been located, and is currently isolated and being treated. The individual was not aware of their condition at the time. Hospital officials have cited privacy laws as the reason for the lack of disclosure on the individual’s identity, according to the Huffington Post.
Hospital and county officials were able to pinpoint the carrier through attendance records, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Sacramento County Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye told the Sacramento Bee that the risk of contacting tuberculosis through this case is “minimal,” and “from the medical evidence we have received so far, we believe the risk of infection with tuberculosis in this particular case is low.”
Tuberculosis is an infectious disease, spread through the air, and generally attacks the lungs. It induces cough fits, chest pains and can even cause the person sick to cough up blood. Coughing, sneezing, talking to someone next to you, or even singing to your baby can be ways to spread the disease.
For more general information about tuberculosis, visit the Center of Disease Control and Prevention website at

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


The 5 Riskiest Superbugs

Mehmed Zelkovic/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As bacteria evolve to evade antibiotics, infections that were once easily cured could become deadly. According to Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization, "things as common as strep throat or a child's scratched knee could once again kill."

"We are losing our first-line antimicrobials," Chan said March 14 in her keynote address at the conference on combating antimicrobial resistance. "Replacement treatments are more costly, more toxic, need much longer durations of treatment, and may require treatment in intensive care units."

Once thought to be relegated to hospitals and nursing homes, antibiotic-resistant bacteria are invading communities worldwide. ABC News asked infectious disease experts which superbugs pose the biggest threats.

They listed five:

The Original Superbug: Staphylococcus Aureus

The Hospital Lurkers: Clostridium Difficile and Acinetobacter

The Food Borne Bugs: Escherichia Coli and Salmonella

The Sexually-Transmitted Infections: Gonorrhea and Chlamydia

The Global Threat: Tuberculosis

"We live in a very small world today," said Dr. William Schaffner, chair of prevention at Vanderbilt University Medical Center., explaining how travelers can import antibiotic resistant bacteria from developing countries. "It's a very small word and the bacteria do not need passports."

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis Could Bring Back Sanatoria

John Foxx/Stockbyte/Thinkstock(CAPE TOWN, South Africa) -- Before the advent of antibiotics, people with infectious diseases like tuberculosis were sent to sanatoria -- secluded hospitals that healed through good food, fresh air and sunlight.  The isolated buildings also quarantined infected patients, thwarting the spread of contagious and dangerous diseases.

In the ’60s, rifampicin removed the need for sprawling sanatoria, some of which, like the Sondalo Tuberculosis Hospital in Italy, housed several thousands of patients.  But the recent emergence of new, antibiotic-resistant strains of the disease-causing bacteria in South Africa has prompted a call for the return of sanatoria.

“The time for rebuilding so-called new sanatoria under a new vision has come and is overdue,” Keertan Dheda of the University of Cape Town and Giovanni Migliori of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for TB and Lung Diseases proposed in a commentary published Tuesday in Lancet Infectious Diseases.  “We have now come full circle and once again there are large numbers of patients for whom there are no effective antituberculosis drugs.  The pool of untreatable cases is accumulating and will need swift action to avoid a human catastrophe.”

Like other superbugs, antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis does not succumb to typical treatments.  And left untreated, infected patients can readily pass the sinister strain of bacteria onto family members and others in their communities.

Drug-resistant tuberculosis is not a public health problem in the United States, thanks in part to the strict supervision of at-home tuberculosis treatment.

“By having health care workers go out and supervise the administration of drugs to our patients, we make sure they keep taking their medications as directed,” said Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The supervision, part of a treatment effort called “directly observed therapy,” ensures patients finish their course of antibiotics, even if they feel better early in the course.

But in regions of the world increasingly burdened by drug-resistant tuberculosis, the idea of sanatoria may be worth revisiting.

“It’s a reasonable question: at what point do you have enough drug resistance that sanatoria should be considered?” said Schaffner. “In South Africa and some Eastern European countries, sanatoria might be a reasonable choice.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


A Portrait of Tuberculosis: Disease Still Kills 1.7M Per Year

Duncan Smith/Thinkstock(GENEVA, Switzerland) -- For the past three years, David Rochkind has documented the devastating effects of a disease that, despite being treatable and preventable, has been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization: tuberculosis.

Rochkind, an American photojournalist living in Latin America since 2003, naturally became interested in migrant groups in the region. In 2008, he set off to South Africa to report on tuberculosis among migrant gold miners, a disease he'd heard was plaguing the population, but he knew very little about it. What he found there shocked him.

TB was completely rampant, and its reach knew no boundaries. "The disease didn't just affect the individual patient who has it, but also affected their family and the communities where it was found," says Rochkind.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2010, Africa's mining industry contributes up to 760,000 new cases of TB each year, with the migrants traveling to work in South Africa at highest risk. Miners in the area are particularly susceptible to TB because of high rates of HIV and silicosis, a lung disease caused by the dust formed during mining. When the miners return home, they take TB with them, passing it on to their families and communities, frequently far from any health center able to treat the disease.

But South Africa isn't alone in the epidemic.

The World Health Organization estimates that 1.7 million people died from TB in 2009. While the incidence rate is declining worldwide, the number of cases is still rising globally, because of population growth. TB is a cruel disease, stalking the poor and others who live in crowded conditions. While 90 percent of cases are in the developing world, TB has become a growing concern in the U.S. and Europe in recent years. Even more disturbingly, multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB), the disease's more difficult and expensive to treat relative, is spreading rapidly in many countries. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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