Think Progress (02.04.13)
Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—five developing nations with high rates of infectious diseases— have announced they will work together to fight against drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB). The epidemic has contributed to hundreds of thousands of deaths around the world each year. The fatality rate for drug-resistant TB is approximately 50 percent. Reports say that the epidemic is worsening, including the February 4 news that a highly-anticipated TB vaccine trial, a study of the first new TB vaccine in 90 years, failed to achieve its desired results. The World Health Organization (WHO) cautions that the rise of TB strains resistant to antibiotic treatment signifies a serious global health threat, especially in developing countries.
According to WHO, in 2011 almost 60 percent of the estimated 310,000 cases of multidrug-resistant TB occurred in India, China, and Russia. WHO states that these countries must strengthen their efforts to overcome the global epidemic. Multidrug-resistant TB is a form of the disease that does not respond to the two most powerful anti-TB medicines. The worldwide worsening of drug-resistant TB has been made known in the last year, despite progress in reducing incidence of regular TB. An Indian doctor reported early last year that a patient had become so drug- resistant that none of the 12 top TB medicines were effective.
Even though the five countries’ economies are flourishing and there is more pressure on them to use their own funds to address their particular country’s health issues, treating drug-resistant forms of TB is much more complicated and costly than treating regular TB. Experts warn that drug-resistant TB may be just the beginning of the problem, as other diseases become resistant to antibiotics and new drug development is not fast enough to replace them. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has attempted to relax its authorization process for new antibiotics to spur the development of new drugs, but antibiotic development in the United States has continued to stall.