TB rates in 18 European nations eight times higher than normal

A report from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control and Europe’s World Health Organization Region Office says that the tuberculosis rate among 18 European countries is 73 infected per 100,000 people.

This rate is about eight times higher than the rest of Europe, which has a rate of 9.2 infected per 100,000 people. The report also says that multi-drug resistant tuberculosis is spreading and that the treatment outcome rates are the lowest in the world within this European region, the Guardian reports.

The 18 countries, according to the Guardian, include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

As World Tuberculosis Day approaches on March 24, WHO officials hope that a new five year plan can be more effective in protecting groups vulnerable to TB.

“The problem of drug-resistant TB needs bold and concrete actions: failure is not an option,” Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe, said, according to the Guardian. “This is why I have set up a special project to prevent and combat M/XDR TB. An important part of our work with scientific and research institutes, and for the consolidated action plan, will be on new and rapid child-friendly diagnostic tools and treatment.”

The Wellcome Trust's report, published in the journal PLoS Medcine, found that the standard treatment to recurrent TB is meeting extreme difficulty. This is occasionally due to undetected drug resistance. Between 10 percent and 20 percent of TB patients who are treated have seen the disease return due to halted treatment or relapsing. The rate of failure is higher for those who also have HIV.

Officials say that more access to rapid diagnostics for drug-resistant TB, second-line TB treatment and antiretroviral HIV therapy can help to stem the problem.