Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Barriers to reaching the targets for tuberculosis control: multidrug-resistant tuberculosis

Kai Blöndal

The development and expansion of WHO’s DOTS strategy was successful, with 83% of the world’s population living in countries or parts of countries covered by this strategy by the end of 2004.

Treatment success in the 2003 DOTS cohort of 1.7 million patients was 82% on average, close to the 85% target. Treatment success was below average in the African Region (72%), which can be partly attributed to occurrence of HIV co-infection, and in the European Region (75%), partly due to drug resistance. Drug resistance, specifically multidrug resistance and extensive drug resistance, is a serious threat to public health in all countries, especially in the Russian Federation, where the highest rates of multidrug resistance are presently accompanied by a rapid increase in HIV infection.

Based on the experience of the first projects approved by the Green Light Committee, the treatment success of patients with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is lower than that of drug-susceptible cases, but nevertheless reaches 70%.

The collaborative effort of different organizations, professionals and communities is needed to address the development and spread of multidrug resistance and extensive drug resistance, which combined with the epidemic of HIV infection is one of the barriers to dealing effectively with TB. This effort should be directed towards facilitating the diagnosis and treatment of TB patients, in particular by improving access to drug susceptibility testing and strengthening treatment delivery by rigorous adherence to DOTS as outlined by the Stop TB Partnership.

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