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Number of TB cases at 30-year high

The number of tuberculosis cases in the UK has reached a 30-year high, figures have revealed.

There were 9,040 new cases in 2009 in the UK, the highest figure since 1979 when there were 9,266 cases in England and Wales alone.

Furthermore, the number of TB cases resistant to first-line treatment has almost doubled in the past decade, according to data from the Health Protection Agency (HPA).

The number of drug-resistant cases went from 206 in 2000 to 389 cases in 2009. Of these, the proportion resistant to treatment with multiple types of antibiotics remains low (1.2%) but has still seen a rise over the last decade.

In 2000, there were 28 multi-drug resistant cases of TB, rising to 58 cases in 2009.

People can suffer drug-resistant TB either from catching a drug resistant strain or due to inappropriate or incomplete treatment. Those without a drug-resistant strain need a six month course of multiple antibiotics, but those with multi-drug resistant TB may need to be treated for 18 months or longer.

In 2009, almost 7% of new TB cases were resistant to the key first-line antibiotic treatment isoniazid.

Office for National Statistics figures for 2008 showed there were 334 deaths in England and Wales where TB was the underlying cause.

Dr Ibrahim Abubakar, head of TB surveillance at the HPA, said: "We are concerned to see cases of TB at their highest levels since the 1970s. TB is a preventable and treatable condition but, if left untreated, can be life threatening. The key to reducing levels of TB is early diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Efforts to improve early diagnosis and control the spread of this infection must remain a priority and be increased in areas where prevalence is high."

Dr Paul Cosford, executive director of health protection services at the HPA, said: "Although drug resistant and multi-drug resistant cases of infection represent only a small proportion of TB cases overall, each resistant case requires careful and often prolonged treatment and care."


From Belfast Telegraph