US News and World Report
February 12, 2013
In a patient’s fight against tuberculosis—the bacterial lung disease that kills more people annually than any infectious disease besides HIV— doctors have more than 10 drugs from which to choose. Most of those didn’t work for Uvistra Naidoo, a South African doctor who contracted the disease in his clinic. For those who contract the disease now, maybe none of them will.
A new paper published earlier this week in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Emerging Infectious Diseases journal warns that the first cases of “totally drug-resistant” tuberculosis have been found in South Africa and that the disease is “virtually untreatable.”
Like many bacterial diseases, tuberculosis has been evolving to fend off many effective antibiotics, making it more difficult to treat. But even treatable forms of the disease are particularly tricky to cure; drug sensitive strains must be treated with a six-month course of antibiotics. Tougher cases require long-term hospitalization and a regimen of harsh drugs that can last years.