Drug-resistant tuberculosis spread by human contact, not just inadequate treatment

Drug-resistant tuberculosis, which threatens advancements in TB and HIV treatment, is largely spread by person-to-person transmission rather than flawed treatment as previously believed, according to a new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

For the study, researchers conducted interviews and medical record reviews to better understand the social networks and hospitalization history of 404 drug-resistant TB patients in South Africa. By using clinical and genotypic case definitions, researchers were able to determine how many drug-resistant TB infections were the result of inadequate or incomplete care in a healthcare setting and how many were caused by human transmission. Researchers determined a majority of cases were transmitted by human contact and not the result of the quality of care received.

"These findings are further proof that we need to better detect, prevent, diagnose and treat drug-resistant TB," said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD. "TB resistant to last-resort drugs is spreading through hospitals and homes, at work and in other places in this high burden community. The only way to stop this disease is by improving infection control and rapidly finding and effectively treating people with TB."

South Africa is experiencing an epidemic of drug-resistant TB. The nation has recorded a tenfold increase in cases from 2002 to 2015.

More articles on infection control: 
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NIH response to infection control issues slowed clinical trial progress, report shows 
Superbugs could render cancer treatments useless, says England's top physician

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