Doctors in India say they have found cases of a rare strain of tuberculosis which appears totally resistant to antibiotics. Doctors said they tried to treat a dozen patients from Mumbai’s slums for two years, but the infection proved to be resistant to drugs. Experts say similar cases of incurable tuberculosis have emerged in Italy and Iran, and pose a serious threat to global efforts to control the disease. “It is an untreatable form of Tuberculosis in the sense that there are no available first and second-line drugs for it in the world,” says Zarir Udwadia, a Tuberculosis doctor at the Hinduja National Hospital in Mumbai. India’s government said the laboratory at Hinduja was not accredited for some of the tests that Dr Udwadia’s team carried out, and questioned the term “totally drug-resistant Tuberculosis”. “The term … is neither recognized by the WHO – World Health Organisation – nor by the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Program,” it said in a statement. Such cases can be managed by national extensively drug-resistant – XDR – Tuberculosis treatment guidelines, according to the WHO.
UPDATE: January 19, 2012. Indian Government Denies Tuberculosis Claim
The Indian government has dismissed reports that a form of incurable tuberculosis has arrived in the country. In a paper published late last year in Clinical Infectious Diseases, Zarir Udwadia and his colleagues at the Hinduja National Hospital and Medical Research Centre in Mumbai reported 12 cases of totally drug-resistant tuberculosis (TDR-TB) (see ‘Totally drug-resistant TB emerges in India’)
But in a statement released on 17 January, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare dismissed the report. It says that a team of doctors sent by the ministry found that seven of the patients are responding to treatment. “For now, these cases are defined as Extensively Drug Resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB), and accordingly can be managed by national XDR-TB treatment guidelines,” it says.