Monday, January 21, 2013

What's in a name?

This time last year I reported on news from India  that a new, even more resistant, strain of Tuberculosis had been isolated and that the name TDR-TB (totally drug resistant TB) was being used. Even at the time the Indian Government was disputing whether the strain is totally or merely 'extensively' drug resistant.

A year later the debate rumbles on. The World Health Organisation (WHO) does not approve of the term TDR or Totally Drug Resistant tuberculosis and the term XXDR or Extra Extensively Drug Resistant Tuberculosis is being used in some places.

The WHO has a fairly extensive explanation of why they don't consider a strain of Tuberculosis that is resistant to all known antibiotics in use to be totally drug resistant. Their arguments seem very weak:

1) A strain of TB that shows itself to be totally resistant to antibiotics in lab tests may in fact be susceptible to  them in the human body.

2) New drugs are under development, and their effectiveness against these “totally drug resistant” strains has not yet been reported.

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