Britain saw highest TB levels for 30 years in 2009

Government data have shown that there were 9,040 cases of tuberculosis in Britain in 2009 - the highest level of TB in 30 years - and that drug-resistant cases have nearly doubled in the last decade.

The annual TB report from the Health Protection Agency of the U.K. showed that while the multi-drug resistant cases have grown, they still only make up about 1.2 percent of all TB cases, Reuters reports.

“We are concerned to see cases of TB at their highest levels since the 1970s,” Dr. Ibrahim Abubakar, HPA's head of TB surveillance, said, according to Reuters. “TB is a preventable and treatable condition but, if left untreated, can be life-threatening.

The standard treatment for TB that is not drug-resistant requires six months of multiple antibiotics. Drug-resistant TB is much tougher to fight, and may take 18 months or longer of several different treatments to defeat.

According to Abubakar, TB cases are more common in urban areas, immigrant communities, the homeless and drug users.

“TB is sadly not a disease of the past and the figures today serve as an important reality check,” Dr. Paul Cosford, executive director of the HPA’s Health Protection Services, said, according to Reuters.

Drug resistant strains of the disease can occur as a result of inappropriate or incomplete treatment or catching the strain from someone else. Abubakar said that efforts to control the spread of infection and improve early diagnosis should be of high priority in the U.K. and that efforts should be increased in prevalent and vulnerable areas.