Deaths down, but resistant TB on increase in KZN

2011-03-23 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL has registered a slight victory in the fight against tuberculosis, with the percentage of patients who have died falling slightly, but there has been a rapid growth in the number of patients with the drug-resistant forms of the disease.

The death rate from TB last year was 10%, down from 12%, but the number of multi-drug resistant (MDR) and extreme drug resistant (XDR) TB patients is rising fast. There were just 205 MDR and one XDR patients in 2000, compared to 1 478 and 199 respectively last year.

According to statistics given by the Health Department ahead of World TB Day tomorrow, the province has a 67,4% cure rate for TB, while 6,8% patients default on treatment.

Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo told reporters at Riverside Hotel yesterday the department is picking up less resistance in HIV treatment, a sign of hope as failure to stick to treatment makes patients more vulnerable to HIV-TB co-infection.

About 70% of TB patients in KZN are HIV-positive.

He said the TB problem could be exacerbated by “systems failure” and demotivation by patients to stick to the lengthy course of treatment. If treatment is not completed, simple TB can mutate into the drug-resistant strains.

The side-effects of some of the drugs are a factor in patients defaulting, the conference heard.

One of the main drugs in the fight against MDR is an injection, Kanamycin, which has caused hearing loss in about 20% of patients .

Patients have to be counselled and encouraged not to discontunue their treatment, said KZN TB programme manager Bruce Margot, but a lot of patients opt to reduce the intake of the drug instead of abandoning it completely, he added.

“We need more research to develop new TB drugs as pharmaceutical companies across the globe have not found a new drug,” said Margot.

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