The Steady Rise of Drug-resistant TB Cases in the Philippines

For four countries, including the Philippines, the treatment for tuberculosis is about to experience a major complication.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, TB cases unaffected by conventional medication will continuously increase in number for the next two decades. Published in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases, these findings stated that Russia, India, South Africa, and the Philippines would experience the highest rise in multi-drug resistant TB cases.

“Multi-drug resistant TB is going to increase to about 30 percent of cases in Russia,” said Peter Cegielski, the senior author of the study. “It will get to about 10 percent in India and the Philippines and probably about 5 percent in South Africa.”

Last year alone saw more than 10 million new cases of TB (both drug-resistant and regular) globally and nearly 2 million TB-related deaths. The four aforementioned countries contributed the most to the statistics.

Hurdles in Treatment

“Plain TB is curable with six to nine months of treatment,” explained Cegielski. “Treatment rates for multi-drug resistant TB and extensively drug resistant TB are far worse. Mortality rates for MDR are around 30 percent and as high as 80 percent for XDR. It is now worse than most cancers.” He also stated that one of the causes of developing multi-drug resistant TB is the improper or irregular taking of medication.

Drug-resistant TB requires up to two years of treatment. This treatment involves daily injections of highly toxic drugs. Side effects of said treatment includes psychosis and hearing loss.

Cases labelled as “totally drug-resistant” are rising in numbers as well. These particular infections have zero response to any available antibiotics. The fatality rate for these cases is 100%.

Dr. Aditya Sharma, co-author of the study, also discussed the disease’ upward trend. “We cannot focus solely on curing people with tuberculosis or drug-resistant tuberculosis if we want to halt the epidemic. Even if we prevent new drug-resistant infections, there are enough current cases to keep the epidemic going, and drug-resistant tuberculosis will continue to be an increasingly dangerous threat so long as resistant strains spread through the air from one person to another.”

Call for Effective Prevention

TB can spread through air and linger for hours. Cegielski said that, if an infected person sneeze or cough, “anybody in the room can be exposed and infected. It doesn’t have to be a room. It can be any enclosed environment — a store, a bus, any place like that.”

Implementing measures like the covering of mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing helped Western countries maintain control over the disease. We have yet to fully adapt this kind of health precautions. Cegielski also pointed out that “airborne infection control in most countries, particularly in hospitals and clinics, is rudimentary at best or even non-existent.”