Based on a new report entitled, “Out of Step” released globally by Médecins Sans Frontières or MSF on October 30 at the 45th Union World Conference on Lung Health held in Barcelona, Spain, the medical group warns that outmoded policies and practices and critical gaps in care for drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) are fuelling a worldwide public health crisis.
Based on a review of key indicators conducted in eight high TB burden countries, including Myanmar, MSF’s findings reveals that efforts to control the epidemic are dangerously out of step with international recommendations and proven best practices, leaving drug-resistant forms of TB to spread unabated.
MSF warns that governments, donors and industry around the world must act now, using every means available to step-up the response to the crisis, or face a further growth in resistance.
Dr. Petros Isaakidis, MSF India Medical Epidemiologist and Senior Operational Research Fellow, said: “This is no time for complacency - in some former Soviet Union states, MSF diagnoses multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) in more than one in three people who have never been treated for TB before, indicating its spread from person to person. In Mumbai, India, MSF sees that primary transmission of drug-resistant strains is likely driving the epidemic in hot spots like slums and within vulnerable groups such as people living with HIV.”
“DR-TB is a manmade disaster, born out of years of neglect and driven by a slow and piecemeal global response. Countries must increase their efforts to optimise DR-TB care in-line with international guidelines and seize the opportunity that new tools offer to strengthen and accelerate the fight against TB,” he said.
With the World Health Organization estimating approximately 8,000 new DR-TB patients each year in Myanmar, it is crucial that current efforts to fight the disease continue to be strengthened and adequate donor funding made available to ensure a strengthening and expansion of the national response to the disease, according to the report.
Currently, in close cooperation with the Myanmar Ministry of Health’s National TB Programme, MSF is treating 110 patients for DR-TB in Myanmar across the country, the overall majority of which are co-infected with HIV/AIDS. In total, MSF treats more than 35,000 HIV/AIDS patients and more than 3,000 co-infected TB patients across Myanmar through a network of clinics.
The latest alarming data from the World Health Organization shows that less than a third of the estimated DR-TB patients worldwide are diagnosed, and only one in five receive proper treatment, which under current WHO accepted regimens takes around two years.