‘Afro-Asian migrants causing rise in drug-resistant TB in Britain’

May 2nd, 2008 - 6:28 pm ICT by admin  

London, May 2 (IANS) South Asian and African immigrants are responsible for a rise in drug-resistant tuberculosis in Britain, a study warned Friday. Researchers from the Health Protection Agency, University of East Anglia and the Mycobacterium Reference Unit, uncovered the rise after studying data from the National Surveillance System, involving 28,620 confirmed cases of tuberculosis.

The study of data from the provinces of England, Wales and Northern Ireland shows TB patients who developed resistance to at least one major drug nearly doubled from 170 to 336 between 1998 and 2005.

The report published in the authoritative British Medical Journal, said the number of multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB cases rose from 23 to 39 during the same period.

More than 8,000 TB infections were reported across England, Wales and Northern Ireland last year.

The study said the prevalence of TB in London is high among homeless people, prisoners and “problem drug users, who are often infectious, difficult to treat, and have drug resistant disease”.

Outside the British capital, the increase in resistance to one drug, isoniazid, was related to increasing numbers of patients born outside Britain and to changes in ethnic group and age, said the report based on figures compiled by the Health Protection Agency.

“The increase in isoniazid resistance is probably related to increasing numbers of patients with drug resistant tuberculosis from sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian subcontinent. The increase in cases from these parts of the world reflects, at least in part, a general change in the UK population resulting from ongoing migration,” it said.

Although TB drug resistance is high and increasing in some provinces of China and in countries of the former Soviet Union, the research showed that few patients with drug resistant tuberculosis came from these regions or from those eastern European countries that have recently joined the European Union.

“Increased awareness, early case detection, rapid drug susceptibility testing, completion of treatment, continuous surveillance, and a contribution to control of tuberculosis in high incidence countries are needed to halt the observed trends,” the report concluded.

The report follows the discovery in March of Britain’s first case of extreme drug-resistant (XDR) TB - a 30-year-old man from Somalia. Although XDR-TB is difficult to treat, doctors say it is no more infectious than ordinary TB.

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