Australia Works to Resist Drug-Resistant TB

Drug resistant tuberculosis case in Australia sparks concern

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Tuberculosis is a disease spread between people through the air, and drug-resistant forms of the disease have put certain countries on alert. Right now, Australia is one of those countries.

The first death in Australia from extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) has been reported this month, sparking concern and debate.

"Always take medicines as prescribed."

According to an article in The Medical Journal of Australia (MJA), the patient was from the nearby islands of Papua New Guinea and hospitalized in the Australian state of Queensland.  

MJA reports that another patient from Papua New Guinea has since been diagnosed with XDR-TB, which is a rare type of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB).  

Prior to these two cases, there were only two known XDR-TB cases within Australian borders in the past eight years.

The cases from Papua New Guinea and reports about risks of TB spreading in the closely neighboring country have led experts to "predict that Australia could see its own outbreak of XDR-TB within 5 years," reports MJA.

The costs of treating the complicated XDR-TB cases have also led to concerns.

"Because XDR-TB is resistant to the most potent TB drugs, patients are left with treatment options that are much less effective," explains the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The recently-deceased XDR-TB patient had been in isolation and treatment since her diagnosis until time of death, nearly a year, which cost the Queensland Health Department about $500,000.

"Well coordinated TB management programs and general healthcare provisions for people of Western Province (Papua New Guinea) must be urgently expanded to avoid increases in incidence of MDR-TB and XDR-TB and reduce the risk of more patients arriving in Australia," reports MJA.

However, while MJA stresses the need for Australia to work to improve TB programs in Papua New Guinea, it predicts that more infected patients will inevitably arrive on its own shores, and that the nation should be prepared to treat them.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "The most important way to prevent the spread of drug-resistant TB is to take all TB drugs exactly as prescribed by the healthcare provider."

The MJA article was written by Tony Kirby and published online March 20. No conflicts of interest were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 28, 2013
Last Updated:
January 2, 2014