India looking for new way to treat TB

Feb. 16, 2013 at 4:25 PM
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MUMBAI, Feb. 16 (UPI) -- Experts say the treatment drug-resistant tuberculosis in India in not effective and may cause the disease to mutate into more deadly strains.

India's current strategy for treating drug-resistant forms of TB is to give patients the drugs they are already resistant to, which can allow the bacteria to build resistance to new drugs as well, The Wall Street Journal reported.

On Friday, Dr. Zarir Udwadia, a prominent TB specialist, told the Journal that India's plan is "a futile exercise" that will "serve to amplify resistance."

"It is morally and medically disastrous," Udwadia said.

Udwadia analyzed 300 patients at a major Mumbai hospital and found that the government's treatment plan was not working on two-thirds of them.

Another study found that about 28 percent of Mumbai's tuberculosis patients were drug-resistant.

"It's a disaster on a huge magnitude," says Nerges Mistry, head of the Foundation for Medical Research, a Mumbai nonprofit that studies TB.

Mario Raviglione, director of the World Health Organization's Stop TB Department, called India's treatment of drug-resistant TB "complete nonsense."

"It is silly to use drugs that there is proven high resistance to, thinking they will work," Raviglione said.

A top official at Mumbai's program to combat TB said the city has greatly expanded its drug-resistance treatment in 2012, but complained of a lack of accredited labs in the city to test patients for resistance.

She said Mumbai has been "begging" the national government to allow doctors in the city to do thoroughly test patients for resistance before putting them on a particular drug cocktail.

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