JOHANNESBURG - South African health officials
reported 10 new cases of a highly drug-resistant strain of
tuberculosis on Friday in a province neighbouring Botswana where
it had not been detected before.
Laboratory tests confirmed four people have died of so-called
XDR-TB -- two since July -- in the North West province, which
Six people were being treated, an official said. One of the six
patients was a visitor from neighbouring Lesotho, a tiny nation
surrounded by South Africa, which raised concerns the highly
contagious disease could cross national boundaries.
"We believe there may be reason for concern but no reason for
alarm. We are making an appeal to our community to strengthen
their efforts to find cases of tuberculosis and support those who
are ill," Lesiba Molala, a spokesman for the North West health
department, told Reuters.
"There is a free movement of people. So it is hard to say how
much more work needs to be done (to contain the disease)."
The latest figures bring the total XDR-TB death toll in South
Africa to 78 since January 2005. The other known deaths were in
the eastern KwaZulu Natal province where the super bug was first
TB is the leading cause of death in AIDS patients as it thrives
in weakened immune systems.
Most of those who have already died were HIV-positive and
officials have expressed concern that with one in nine South
Africans infected with the virus that causes AIDS, many people
may be vulnerable to the more virulent form of TB.
The latest cases of XDR-TB were detected after North West health
authorities scoured hospital records of TB patients dating back
to 2000, following attention drawn to the disease by the World
The WHO was among the international health bodies represented at
an emergency meeting in Johannesburg last month to determine how
to prevent the disease from spreading across the southern African
More pressure mounted on South Africa to stamp out the deadly
virus in September after the discovery of six cases of XDR-TB in
the Gauteng province, the country's economic hub encompassing
Johannesburg and Pretoria.
TB, an airborne bacillus that can be spread through coughing or
sneezing, can mutate when patients do not complete or are
careless with their treatment or are dispensed inadequate