Drug-Resistant TB Crisis
In Russia Will Spread
Around World Doctors Say
LONDON (Reuters) - British, American and French doctors warned Wednesday "it's only a matter of time" before tuberculosis in Russia spreads to the rest of the world.
"It is only a matter of time before drug-resistant tuberculosis of Russian origin becomes a reality in other countries worldwide," Dr. Nicholas Banatvala, of Medical Emergency Relief International (MERLIN), said.
In a statement issued jointly with Medicins Sans Frontieres and the New York Health Research Institute, the British charity called for the world community to provide funds to combat the crisis.
All three organizations are piloting modern TB treatments in Russia.
"Current levels of drug-resistant tuberculosis in Russia are alarming and the economic crisis will exacerbate the problem many times over. In our view, this local humanitarian disaster has reached the proportions of a direct global public health threat," Banatvala added.
MERLIN estimates that the emergency program for Russia would cost about $100 million, adding that the sum is small in comparison to the number of deaths that will occur if the problem is not addressed.
Tuberculosis is an airborne infection that kills three million people each year. New drug-resistant strains are emerging and the disease has reached epidemic proportions in many poor countries.
After nearly being wiped out, it is also re-emerging in some rich countries.
MERLIN said the shortage of anti-TB drugs in Russia will lead to substandard antibiotic treatment that will increase drug-resistant strains.