Nine patients in India are suffering from a strain of tuberculosis which has proved to be multi-drug resistant, and possibly totally drug-resistant. Isolated incidences previously occurred in Italy and Iran, and doctors had expected another outbreak.
A multi-drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis (TB) that first surfaced in India in December may prove to be totally drug-resistant, and thus untreatable. Ten patients have so far been diagnosed in India with this new strain of TB. A research paper entitled "Incidence of Multidrug-Resistant Tuberculosis in Urban and Rural India and Implications for Prevention" documents the first cases found in December and can be read in detail in the Oxford Journals Clinical Infectious Diseases.
The research paper places the blame for the development of this new strain of TB on doctors over-prescribing inappropriate drugs which resulted in drug resistance. The report says "These three patients had received erratic, unsupervised second-line drugs, added individually and often in incorrect doses, from multiple private practitioners."
Officials and doctors from the World Health Organization are meeting in Mumbai on Tuesday to discuss the situation. Bloomberg reports that a forced quarantine may be imposed to prevent the infection spreading. Mario Raviglione, director of the WHO’s Stop TB program said that due to the ease of purchasing antibiotics it had long been expected that a totally drug-resistant strain of TB would emerge. He voiced the opinion that "These patients may well be the tip of the iceberg."
TB is extremely prevalent in India, accounting for 26 percent of all TB cases worldwide. The new strain has been detected amongst India's poorest slum dwellers, leading Dr. Zarir Udwadia to conclude "they are the untouchables, so no one is making a fuss" USA Today reported. He said there was little hope that the nine infected patients will survive. Experts believe there may be many more undocumented cases.