WHO fears TB resurgence

The World Health Organization recently warned that tuberculosis could become incurable if governments fail to act.

The WHO blames a reduction in public health funding, the sale of inaccurate blood tests and the misuse of TB medicine, especially in the private health sector, for hampering the fight against TB and boosting its resistance to frontline drugs, according to

Extremely drug-resistant strains of TB have been confirmed in at least 70 countries. Doctors in India, Iran and Italy have reported seeing patients that have shown resistance to all known TB medications.

"What we are seeing worldwide is the emergence of strains of the bacillus causing tuberculosis that are resistant to most of the drugs we have available," Mario Raviglione, the director of the WHO's Stop TB campaign, said, reports.

TB rates declined worldwide between 1990 and 2000 after a major global health campaign, but the emergence of drug-resistant strains is seen as a major threat to the WHO's stated goal of eliminating the disease as a major public health problem by 2050.

Drug resistance increases as doctors fail to prescribe the appropriate medications and because patients often fail to complete full courses of prescribed antibiotics.

Raviglione said that although public clinics run out of stock, private practitioners are increasingly to blame. In India, 50-70 percent of patients go to private doctors when symptoms appear.

"They don't want to queue in public clinics that are overwhelmed and congested. But the problem with private practitioners is you don't know who you are meeting and sometimes these people are just incompetent," Raviglione said, according to

Instead of prescribing the four drug, six month regime recommended by the WHO, clinics often prescribe too many drugs, or too few.

"Many doctors will not adhere to the correct regime of TB treatment. Often TB is not diagnosed: they just suspect it. They give two tuberculosis drugs, and say come back in four weeks; that is very common," Professor Sarman Singh, a microbiologist at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, said, reports.