Beware the Plague: Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis on the Rise
We tend to view tuberculosis (TB) as an ancient disease that only affected the poor back in the day. But the scary reality is that TB has been making a comeback with vengeance by way of a new drug-resistant strain.
The White Plague
In the 18th and 19th century, TB was commonly referred to as the “white plague.” It swept through impoverished areas killing poor women and children at an unbelievable rate.
This bacterial infection destroys lung tissue, causing sneezing and coughing. The airborne particles expelled help to spread the disease quickly. A slow and painful death may result among those unable to get treatment.
While the incidence of the condition has certainly decreased over the years, the statistics are still quite staggering. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that in 2010, 8.8 million people fell ill with TB and 1.4 million died from the infection.
Despite the advances in regards to TB, the medical community is beginning to panic as a number of cases of TB that are resistant to even the most intense antibiotic treatments have surfaced. A recent study has made it more clear just how serious the situation is after documenting new cases of a drug-resistant TB in India that seems to have no treatment or cure.
The International Effect
It’s hard not to become alarmed when you hear London being referred to as the “tuberculosis capital of Europe.” London – not some remote area in rural Indonesia. It’s even more alarming when you consider that the majority of those affected aren’t the poor living in slums and squalor, but rather the wealthy and affluent.
A Man-Made Disease
A shocking statement from Lucica Ditiu from the World Health Organization’s “Stop TB Partnership” paints a frustrating picture of how this drug-resistant form of TB came to be, saying that it’s “a totally man-made disease.” She also notes that it didn’t come from nature, but rather from doctors and the entire healthcare system because of the amount of unnecessary antibiotic treatment courses prescribed and not completed by patients. “It came about because patients were treated badly -- either with poor quality drugs, or not enough drugs, or with insufficient observation so the patient didn't finish the treatment course.”
With as many as a dozen antibiotic treatments failing to cure many of these drug-resistant cases of TB, the race is on to find an effective treatment and to try to stop the spread of the disease . . . which is proving equally difficult. If nothing can be done, and quickly, this new trend may be proof that History truly does repeat itself.