Drug resistant TB tops antibiotics priority list drawn up by WHO

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A multi country study funded by the World Health Organisation has zeroed in upon the drug resistant tuberculosis bacterium as a priority for future development  of antibiotics. The study was published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

In 2016, WHO was requested by member states to create a priority list of other antibiotic-resistant bacteria to support research and development of effective drugs. Accordingly WHO commissioned a study by researchers from Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Netherlands and several other countries to draw up a priority list. The study concluded: “Future development strategies should focus on antibiotics that are active against multidrug-resistant tuberculosis and Gram-negative bacteria. The global strategy should include antibiotic-resistant bacteria responsible for community-acquired infections such as Salmonella spp, Campylobacter spp, N gonorrhoeae, and H pylori.” The last four are causal agents for typhoid, gastrointestinal infections like diarrhoea, dysentry etc, gonorrhea and stomach ulcers. For India that is home to the most number of tuberculosis patients, the fact that drug resistant TB bacteria tops the list, is particularly significant. According to World Health Organisation estimates, there are some 1,47,000 drug resistant TB patients in India. There are many kinds of drug resistance in TB bacteria depending on which drugs it is resistant to. If the bacteria is resistant to both isoniazid and rifampicin without resistance to other drugs, it is said to be multidrug resistance. If the bacteria is resistant to rifampicin only, it is called rifampicin resistant (RR) TB.

Extensive drug resistance(XDR) patients are those who are resistant to isoniazid, rifampicin in addition to one fluoroquinolone group of drugs (ofloxacin, levofloxacin or moxifloxacin) and one second line injectable anti-TB drugs (kanamycin, amikacin or capreomycin). It is because of such high levels of drug resistance that the government of India started the DOTS programme where whether the patient is taking the medicine or not is monitored.