A new, deadly
strain of tuberculosis has killed 52 of 53 people infected
in the last year in South Africa, the World Health
Organization said Friday, calling for improved
measures to treat and diagnose the virus.
"We are extremely
worried about the issue of extreme drug resistance,"
said Paul Nunn, coordinator of the WHO's drug resistance
department. "If countries don't have the diagnostic capacity
to find these patients, they will die without proper
The WHO and its
partners, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention, planned a two-day meeting next week in South
Africa to discuss the new TB strain in Africa and
better ways to diagnose and treat it, Nunn said.
rates among TB patients in South Africa, however, prompted
medical researchers to survey the cases and ultimately to
find the new strain.
processes are constantly throwing up mutations of
tuberculosis viruses, so this may have arisen due to some
particular quirk of the environment or the way they
were treated or their genetic background," said Paul
Fine, a professor of communicable diseases at the
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
2% of TB cases are classified as being extremely
drug-resistant. Little information is available on extreme
drug resistance in Africa, but it is believed to be
increasing. The high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Africa
also complicates the issue of treating extremely
drug-resistant TB. (AP, Maria Cheng)