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Fighting Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis


Multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis bacteria. (Credit: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

The National Action Plan specifies a set of targeted interventions that will improve rapid detection and treatment of MDR-TB globally and in the United States.

Prior to the discovery and mass production of antibiotics in the 1940s, tuberculosis, or TB, was one of the most feared diseases around. Today, TB infections are preventable and treatable. Despite enormous progress toward eliminating the disease, TB still causes more deaths than any other single infectious disease worldwide, killing more than 1.5 million people each year.

And the disease is becoming more dangerous. Of the 9 million who contract TB every year, about 480,000 develop Multi-Drug Resistant TB, or MDR-TB. This form of the disease is caused by bacteria that are resistant to treatment with at least two of the most powerful first-line anti-TB drugs.

MDR-TB threatens progress made in TB care and control worldwide. It often develops and spreads where people receive some TB treatment but follow-up is poor. Patients suffering from MDR-TB must be treated longer, with second-line drugs that are less effective, more toxic, and often much more expensive than first-line drugs.

Recognizing the urgent need to address antimicrobial resistance, including that found in MDR-TB, in 2014, the Obama Administration announced the National Strategy for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria and, last December, launched the National Action Plan for Combating MDR-TB. The National Action Plan specifies a set of targeted interventions that will improve rapid detection and treatment of MDR-TB globally and in the United States, as well as aid the discovery and development of innovative and effective ways to diagnose, treat, and prevent MDR-TB.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is helping to implement the National Action Plan, including by expanding its partnership with Janssen Therapeutics, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, and forming a new partnership with Cepheid, a maker of molecular systems and tests.

At the public launch of the National Action Plan, Dr. Ariel Pablos-Méndez, USAID Assistant Administrator for Global Health, stated “USAID remains committed to addressing the global rise of Multi-Drug Resistant TB. With the successful implementation of this plan, we have an incredible opportunity to make a significant impact on the emergence and spread” of this disease.

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