Statement on Wall Street Journal Article: XDR-TB Case in Texas Calls for Compassion, Global Action
March 2, 2013 — The case of a Nepalese man detained at the U.S. border in Texas suffering from an extensively-drug resistant (XDR-TB) strain of tuberculosis — featured in today’s Wall Street Journal — brings heightened clarity to the urgency of a renewed global response in the fight against tuberculosis (TB).
This story of a man, who traveled across several continents with a dangerous strain of TB, is not just a story about what happens on our border — it’s about a disease that has no borders and that necessitates a more aggressive global response.
Many people think TB is a disease of the past. In fact, over two billion people are currently infected with the bacterium that causes TB — roughly one-third of the world’s population. One in ten people who carry the latent infection will become sick with active TB, which is one of the leading infectious killers of adults in the world.
Multi drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) is a dangerous form of TB that is resistant to the two most powerful anti-TB drugs. Ineffective treatment of MDR-TB gives rise to extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB). Resistant to a number of critical first- and second-line anti-TB drugs, XDR-TB is extremely difficult and costly to treat and has a high mortality rate.
The case described in The Wall Street Journal demonstrates the value and importance of a strong, well-funded U.S. public health system that can detect outbreaks of deadly diseases and respond quickly. The Centers for Disease Control’s Division of TB Elimination has helped ensure overall TB rates in the U.S. continue to decline. However, this decline in total TB cases masks the fact that strains of TB are getting more dangerous and are more concentrated in populations that are difficult to reach.
We will never control and eliminate tuberculosis, however, if we only look inward. Before being taken into custody by the U.S. Border Patrol in Texas, the Nepalese man had reportedly visited 13 other countries, including Brazil, Mexico and several countries in South Asia.
TB anywhere is TB everywhere.
Increased U.S. support for the global TB response is essential to addressing TB within our own country, as this airborne infectious disease knows no borders, and our domestic epidemic increasingly reflects the global one. We must support countries like Nepal to strengthen their own capacity to control TB and properly care for their TB patients. Without greater investment now to effectively treat TB in other countries, the epidemic of drug-resistant TB will continue to grow and threaten us all.
If we don’t act now to address TB globally, it will cost us far more in lives and dollars in the long run. Treating drug-resistant TB can cost up to 100 times more than treating drug-sensitive TB. We must not forget the lessons from New York City, where an outbreak of multi drug-resistant TB in the late 1980s was estimated to cost over $U.S. 1 billion dollars.
Experts are available to discuss the intersection of the global and local TB fight, in response to this new drug-resistant case on our border:
As Executive Director of RESULTS and RESULTS Educational Fund, a grassroots advocacy organization that generates the public and political will to end poverty in the U.S. and abroad, Joanne has almost two decades of experience leading domestic and international campaigns to fight TB.
Author of Timebomb: The Global Epidemic of Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis, Dr. Lee Reichman is the Executive Director of the New Jersey Medical School Global Tuberculosis Institute and has served as chair of several Center for Disease Control committees, including the National Coalition to Eliminate Tuberculosis.
As a Stop TB Advocacy Officer at RESULTS, David Bryden coordinates U.S. advocacy on TB on behalf of the Stop TB Partnership and raises the visibility of TB as an issue of global concern.
To connect with these sources, contact:
Senior Communications Associate, ACTION Partnership — RESULTS Educational Fund