Rise in TB infection rates could “turn clock back to 1930s”

13 February 2013

Tuberculosis looks set to defy concerted efforts to treat it successfully with powerful drugs, turning the clock back to the 1930s, warn the editors of the journal Thorax in a special themed issue to mark World TB day on March 24.

TB often lies dormant with no symptoms, but in a proportion of cases, becomes active, predominantly attacking the lungs. But it can also affect the bones and nervous system, and if left untreated can be fatal. The infection is developing increasing resistance around the world to the powerful drugs currently used to treat it.

During the 1930s, dedicated sanitaria and invasive surgery were commonly prescribed for those with the infection — usually caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which the editors describe as “the most successful human pathogen of all time".

“Whatever we may have once optimistically thought, TB remains with death, taxes and political chicanery as being inevitable, unavoidable and deeply unpleasant,” write the joint editors, Andy Bush and Ian Pavord. “It shows every sign of weathering the storm and superb randomised controlled trials, to emerge in ever-increasingly drug-resistant forms, potentially turning the clock back to the 1930s. This edition of Thorax, coinciding with world TB day, is themed to recognise the ongoing sinister successes of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, unarguably the most successful human pathogen of all time.”

The issue contains international research papers, looking at a broad range of issues, from the risk of TB after seroconversion to HIV infection, to the impact of ethnicity on the pattern of disease.

Highlights include:



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