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Control of TB epidemic requires more effective drugs, better tests, and focus on latent infection

ATLANTA--With approximately 9 million individuals expected to develop tuberculosis (TB) this year and more than 2 million expected to die from the disease, according to the World Health Organization, tuberculosis has become a global public health epidemic. In the U.S., although TB cases have declined since 1992, it remains a serious health problem in urban areas and among certain populations including some U.S.-born persons. The global TB epidemic increasingly impacts the U.S., where the majority of TB cases now occurring are among people born outside the country.

In an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association published on-line on Tuesday, June 7, clinician/researchers describe the most current effective treatments for both active TB and latent TB infection and the efforts underway to develop new drugs and more effective diagnostic tools. A stepped-up effort targeting programs to detect and treat the large number of people with latent TB infection who are at increased risk for progression to active TB is a strategy for enhancing TB control efforts in the U.S., the authors say.

Effective treatment of active TB requires a minimum of six to nine months of multi-drug therapy. To ensure successful completion of the therapy, these drugs should be administered by using "directly observed therapy," which requires that a health care worker give a patient the drugs then watch the patient swallow them. Directly observed therapy has been demonstrated to enhance completion and cure rates and reduce the risk of emergence of drug-resistant TB.

"Enhancing control of TB in the U.S. requires close collaboration between public health programs and private clinicians," says Henry Blumberg, MD, professor of medicine (infectious diseases) at Emory University School of Medicine, director of infection control at Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital and lead author of the JAMA paper. "Our goals with treatment are to cure patients, minimize the
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Contact: Holly Korschun
hkorsch@emory.edu
404-727-3990
Emory University Health Sciences Center
7-Jun-2005


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