This Saturday, March 24, is the World Day Against Tuberculosis, a disease that has almost disappeared from rich countries but continues to strike hard the poor countries. In recent years, it has become the most deadly infectious disease in the world, ahead of AIDS. 1.7 million people died in 2016, out of 10 million affected patients. The challenge is all the greater as resistant forms of the disease continue to spread and are very difficult to treat.
Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis is a cause for concern. The number of new cases continues to increase, reaching nearly 500,000 patients in 2016 worldwide. Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Southern Africa are particularly affected.
What makes these forms of TB particularly dangerous is that they are insensitive to the two most commonly used drugs. As a result, the patient can not be treated with the usual six-month treatment, explains Dr. Francis Varaine of the NGO Doctors Without Borders.
A long and difficult treatment
Due to this resistance, patients are forced to undergo a much longer treatment: two years, sometimes more. Some have even been treated for as much as four years.
Without guarantee of cure so far: the procedure is “toxic, therefore extremely poorly tolerated by the patient”, is very expensive and has “a very low cure rate, around 50%”.
It is therefore difficult to combat this epidemic of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. Yet the stakes are fundamental. If nothing is done to help the victims of this disease, not only will they “die”, but also “contaminate others in their surroundings” with this new form of the disease.
However, in this battle, there is still some hope: two new molecules, very effective, have recently joined the very limited arsenal of drugs. But for the moment, only 5% of patients have access to it.