Drug resistant TB on rise here

Patient cases involving drug-resistant tuberculosis are on the rise in Ireland, a group of respiratory experts have warned.

Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis is very difficult to treat, according to Professor Joseph Keane of St James’s Hospital and Trinity College Dublin.

The current treatment relating to the disease requires a two-year course of antibiotics which causes the extreme side-effect of hearing loss, said Prof Keane.

With 1.5m people dying from tuberculosis (TB) every year and one third of the global population infected, he said the disease must be tackled urgently.

“The increase in multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis is an epidemic that is devastating the developing world. It is crucial that we do not become complacent about the spread of TB both globally and here at home in Ireland,” said Prof Keane.

He said more resources needed to be allocated to tackle it, domestically.

Respiratory consultant at St James’s, Dr Anne Marie McLaughlin, said there were 329 cases of TB in Ireland each year. “The complexity of these cases and the increase in the number of multi-drug-resistant cases is pushing the limits of our services,” she said.

Funding was promised to St James’s Hospital in 2004 for a national TB unit, consultant Dr Finbarr O’Connell said. “Our public health efforts to fight TB would be helped if this facility was delivered now.”

Global guidelines have been released on tackling the disease, with Prof Keane the only Irish author to contribute. The guidelines say doctors should consider testing patients for TB when a person they live with has the disease, if they immigrated from a country where the disease is common or if they are in a high-risk setting such as a prison, a hostel or homeless shelter.

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