The World Health Organization (WHO) warned that drug-resistant tuberculosis is spreading faster than medical experts have feared, according to media reports Wednesday.
WHO said that drug-resistant tuberculosis has reached previously unthinkable rates of more than 20 percent in some countries.
The highest rate recorded was in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, where 22.3 percent of new tuberculosis cases were resistant to the standard anti-tuberculosis drug treatment.
There is also concern about XDR-TB, or extensively drug-resistant TB, a strain virtually untreatable most times. WHO's report said XDR-TB has now been found in 45 countries.
The report data were based on information collected between 2002 and 2006, but only available from about half of the world's countries. For example, only six countries provided information in Africa.
Tuberculosis can be relatively easily transmitted from an infected individual to a healthy person in saliva droplets through coughing, sneezing, singing and other activities.
"Multi-drug resistant TB is a threat to every person on the planet," said Mark Harrington, executive director of Treatment Action Group. "It's not like HIV, where you are only infected through specific actions. TB is a threat to every person who takes a train or a plane."
Experts said new drugs are needed if the outbreak is to be curbed, along with new diagnostic tests to identify drug-resistant TB strains faster.
(Agencies via Xinhua News Agency February 27, 2008)