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Urgent call to tackle global drug-resistant Tuberculosis

Urgent call to tackle global drug-resistant tuberculosis

Gulf News

Al Ain: Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR-TB) has been spreading fast all over the world, dictating the need for finding the best way to use new medicines for effective treatment of patients, the participants of a health seminar were told here yesterday (Tuesday).

The disease-causing bacteria have developed resistance to the available drugs and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), an international medical relief organisation, has found these germs in newly diagnosed patients, said Dr Tammam Aloudat, head of the MSF Public Health Department.

“We are seeing an increase in the spread of TB and have very little available medicines to fight it,” he said, while speaking at a conference on Tuberculosis: Addressing challenges held in Al Ain.

The event was jointly organised by the MSF and the College of Medicine and Health Sciences at UAE University. It was attended by doctors, nurses, and other clinical staff from different hospitals, university academics, researchers, and students.

Both the institutions have made a joint international call for urgent action to develop a point of care tuberculosis test to be used worldwide as millions of people live with the disease and hundreds of thousands die from it every year.

MDR-TB has been spreading fast and “MSF is seeing vast amounts of drug resistance even in newly diagnosed persons in some of our projects,” said Dr Aloudat. The disease is difficult to treat as it takes two years of more than 20 pills a day and months of daily painful injectable drugs. “There are many side effects including mental conditions and deafness,” he added.

Professor Tar-Ching Aw, interim dean of the College of Medicine at the university, said the disease is not only drug-resistant but also transcending borders aided by easier movement of people between continents. “These factors should be considered when discussing current preventive public health measures in the UAE or internationally,” he said.

The experts said that two new drugs — Bedaquiline and Delamanid — had recently been or are about to be approved after close to five decades of insufficient research and development into TB. “Research is urgently needed to determine the best way to use these new drugs so that treatment can be made shorter and more effective, and rolled out to treat the growing number of people with MDR-TB,” they said.

The number of people receiving MDR-TB treatment globally, said the experts, remains shockingly low at less than one in five. “Greater political and financial support from the international community is needed to address this gap,” they added.