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South African study shows how drug-resistant tuberculosis spreads

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Staff Writer | January 21, 2017
Drug-resistant tuberculosis
Infectious disease   The deadliest form of TB

A new study provides compelling evidence that extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR TB) is spread from person-to-person in the KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa from 2011–2014.

The study was conducted by a team of researchers from Emory University, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa and was funded by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.

It builds on a growing body of evidence showing that person-to-person transmission, not just inadequate treatment, is driving the spread of drug-resistant TB.

South Africa is experiencing a widespread epidemic of XDR TB, the deadliest form of TB, including a tenfold increase in cases between 2002 and 2015.

The study found that the majority of cases (69 percent) in high HIV- and high TB-burden areas happened due to person-to-person transmission rather than inadequate TB treatment in South Africa.

By using social networks analysis, the study identified numerous opportunities for transmission not only in hospitals, but also in community settings, such as households and workplaces.

The study has important implications for efforts to prevent drug-resistant TB, which have traditionally focused on ensuring that patients receive accurate and complete TB treatment.


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