Tuberculosis a growing threat

27 Mar 2014

This week saw the observation of World Tuberculosis Day (March 24), an annual event that marks the anniversary of German Nobel Laureate, Dr Robert Koch's 1882 discovery of the bacterium that causes TB. It is likely that this disease has killed more people than any other in human history. According to the World Health Organisation, in 2012 an estimated 8.6 million people developed TB and 1.3 million died from the disease. The Asia−Pacific region carries the bulk of the global TB burden (58%), including the majority of all estimated multidrug-resistant (MDR) cases (54%). One of the five priority actions listed in the WHO Global Tuberculosis Report 2013 is to address MDR-TB as a public health crisis.

The Medical Journal of Australia has recently published two articles on drug resistant tuberculosis. Infectious Diseases Specialist, Dr Suman Majumdar, and colleagues, write in an article entitled Drug-resistant tuberculosis: collaborative regional leadership required, that the number of people living with MDR-TB has risen from an estimated 440,000 in 2008 to 680,000 in 2012, and less than 20% receive appropriate treatment. They note that the DR-TB challenge is similar in scale and impact to HIV infection in the 1980s, and that the international response has been slow and insufficient. They also note a steady increase in cases in Australia. The authors state that there is a compelling case for Australia to facilitate a coordinated response to the growing DR-TB threat by mobilising regional political commitment and resources.

Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis in Western Australia, 1998-2012 was released this week in MJA Online First. It describes the epidemiology, clinical features, health care resource use, treatment and outcomes of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis cases diagnosed in Western Australia.

Image by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on Flickr, used under Creative Commons licence