22 May 2007

Superbug poses dire threat to Africa

A new strain of tuberculosis, which first appeared in South Africa, is now spreading further. The new contagion is complicating an already bad situation in a region suffering high rates of HIV/AIDS infection.

Virtually incurable disease takes hold in region already staggering under the weight of HIV-AIDS
From Monday's Globe and Mail
May 21, 2007 at 4:54 AM EDT

New easily spread strain of TB killing nearly all patients infected
DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA — Tony Moll knew there was a problem, a grave problem. To tell him so, he had a ward full of patients who were sicker by the day.
But the gentle doctor, a veteran of 20 years of practice in a rural town in the low hills of KwaZulu-Natal province, never considered that he was looking at a problem that some public-health experts say may be the worst threat to humanity in the past half-century.
When the lab called to tell him just what was wrong with those patients, the news left him “in shivers.” The Church of Scotland Hospital in Tugela Ferry, an old mission station of low, graceful stone buildings where Dr. Moll is the chief physician, now has the macabre title of “home of XDR TB” – extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis.
The TB bacillus, a bug that has been pesky but totally treatable since the advent of antibiotics in the 1940s, has suddenly morphed into something virtually incurable. And the disease is spread not with a complex exchange of bodily fluids, like AIDS or Ebola, but simply by laughing, talking, coughing or breathing.
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