MDR-TB Pills in Hand, Credit: Jonathan Stillo

In the past few weeks there has been a, relatively, considerable amount of column inches have been given over to tuberculosis (TB), particularly the worrying rise of multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) strains. MDR-TB is a form of TB that is resistant to isoniazid and rifampicin (the two most powerful anti-TB drugs). In a recent post we highlighted articles both in the New York Times and Al-Jazeera alerting us to the concern that many developing countries with high TB prevalence are awash with fake and substandard drugs.

In it’s leading story and, rightly so, featured on it’s front cover the most recent Europe edition of TIME magazine has declared “Contagion: Why drug-resistant TB threatens us all”. The article highlights that, currently, only 10 percent of new MDR cases are receiving proper treatment. Given that it also mentions there will be over 2 million new cases of MDR-TB from 2011-2015 this is something that should worry us all and spur us to take action. Importantly, a lack of proper treatment not only raises the risk of death for a TB patient, but it can also lead to the emergence of extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB). This is even more difficult to treat, being both more costly, taking more time and is more toxic and potent for the patient.

Critically, Eastern Europe and Central Asia have some of the highest rates of MDR-TB combined with some of the least effective treatment programmes for patients. It is terrible in itself that people continue to die from TB anywhere in the world and even more shocking that this is the case within European borders. It is so important that we encourage European parliamentarians and decision makers to tackle TB through further investment into R&D and increased funding programmes that effectively identify suitable treatment for millions of patients both in Europe and in the wider world.