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Global rise of drug-resistant TB 'threatens to derail decades of progress'

Researchers warn that measures are needed, including accurate diagnostic tests and clear presciption guidelines, to ensure the continued effectiveness of tuberculosis drugs.
Drug-resistant_tuberculosis_bacteria-SPL.jpg

The effectiveness of new drugs to treat drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) could be rapidly lost without accurate diagnostic tests and clear prescription guidelines, say researchers worldwide.

A Lancet respiratory medicine commission brought together global experts in different fields, including tuberculosis research, infectious diseases and public health, to investigate drug-resistant TB.

They include researchers from countries more greatly affected by TB, such as South Africa and India, and other leading experts, including from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Their report states that extensive overuse and abuse of antibiotics worldwide has led to a rise in drug-resistant bacteria. Around one in five TB cases are resistant to at least one major anti-TB drug.

New drugs have recently become available to treat drug-resistant TB, including bedaquiline, delamanid,

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The effectiveness of new drugs to treat drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) could be rapidly lost without accurate diagnostic tests and clear prescription guidelines, say researchers worldwide. 


Extensive overuse of antibiotics worldwide has led to a rise in drug-resistant
bacteria. Picture: Science Photo Library

A Lancet respiratory medicine commission brought together global experts in different fields, including tuberculosis research, infectious diseases and public health, to investigate drug-resistant TB. 

They include researchers from countries more greatly affected by TB, such as South Africa and India, and other leading experts, including from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. 

Their report states that extensive overuse and abuse of antibiotics worldwide has led to a rise in drug-resistant bacteria. Around one in five TB cases are resistant to at least one major anti-TB drug.

New drugs have recently become available to treat drug-resistant TB, including bedaquiline, delamanid, and linezolid.

'Global problem' 

But the researchers say accurate diagnostic tests are required to deliver individually-targeted treatments. 

They also recommend clear guidelines on appropriate use and improved control efforts to prevent transmission.

Without these, and other measures, they predict the effectiveness of the drugs could quickly be lost. 

Lead author Keertan Dheda, of the University of Cape Town, said: 'Resistance to anti-TB drugs is a global problem that threatens to derail efforts to eradicate the disease.'

TB kills more people annually than any other infectious disease. In 2015, 1.8 million people died from TB, and six countries – India, Indonesia, China, Nigeria, Pakistan and South Africa – account for 60% of TB cases worldwide.


Dheda et al (2017) The epidemiology, pathogenesis, transmission, diagnosis, and management of multidrug-resistant, extensively drug-resistant, and incurable tuberculosis. The Lancet Respiratory Medicine. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2213-2600(17)30079-6

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