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Free Content Emergence of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis in a community-based directly observed treatment programme in rural South Africa

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OBJECTIVE: Although little studied in developing countries, multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is considered a major threat. We report the molecular epidemiology, clinical features and outcome of an emerging MDR-TB epidemic.

METHODS: In 1996 all tuberculosis suspects in the rural Hlabisa district, South Africa, had sputum cultured, and drug susceptibility patterns of mycobacterial isolates were determined. Isolates with MDR-TB (resistant to both isoniazid and rifampicin) were DNA fingerprinted by restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) using IS6110 and polymorphic guanine-cytosine-rich sequence-based (PGRS) probes. Patients with MDR-TB were traced to determine outcome. Data were compared with results from a survey of drug susceptibility done in 1994.

RESULTS: The rate of MDR-TB among smear-positive patients increased six-fold from 0.36% (1/275) in 1994 to 2.3% (13/561) in 1996 (P = 0.04). A further eight smear-negative cases were identified in 1996 from culture, six of whom had not been diagnosed with tuberculosis. MDR disease was clinically suspected in only five of the 21 cases (24%). Prevalence of primary and acquired MDR-TB was 1.8% and 4.1%, respectively. Twelve MDR-TB cases (67%) were in five RFLP-defined clusters. Among 20 traced patients, 10 (50%) had died, five had active disease (25%) and five (25%) were apparently cured.

CONCLUSIONS: The rate of MDR-TB has risen rapidly in Hlabisa, apparently due to both reactivation disease and recent transmission. Many patients were not diagnosed with tuberculosis and many were not suspected of drug-resistant disease, and outcome was poor.
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Keywords: DOT; community treatment; multidrug resistance

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: Hlabisa Hospital, KwaZulu/Natal, South Africa 2: Department of Medical Microbiology, University of Natal, Kwazulu/Natal, South Africa 3: Hlabisa Hospital, KwaZulu/Natal, South Africa; and South Australian Centre for Rural and Remote Health, University of South Australia and University of Adelaide, Australia

Publication date: 1999-09-01

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  • The International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease publishes articles on all aspects of lung health, including public health-related issues such as training programmes, cost-benefit analysis, legislation, epidemiology, intervention studies and health systems research. The IJTLD is dedicated to the continuing education of physicians and health personnel and the dissemination of information on tuberculosis and lung health world-wide.

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