Soaring rates of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis have been found in west Africa, with the highest in the dense population of Lagos, Nigeria, suggesting the seriousness of the epidemic has been considerably underestimated, the Guardian reports.
The WHO had estimated that up to 2% of new TB infections in west Africa were resistant to drugs, but the researchers found the true rate was 6%.
The rate among people who had already been treated for TB was much higher: the WHO had estimated 17% of these infections in west Africa were resistant to drugs, but the network has found the average is 35%.
The hotspots are in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, where 66% of people previously treated for TB have a drug-resistant strain. Among people treated for TB for the first time, nearly a third – 32% – had a drug-resistant strain.
In Mali, the researchers found that 59% of people previously treated for TB had drug resistance.
“It is a wake-up call for the ministries of health and the governments to take MDR-TB seriously,” said Prof Martin Antonio, principal investigator at the Medical Research Council unit in the Gambia. “I think it is a problem for the rest of the world as well. Ebola wasn’t just a west African problem.
“We recommend that efforts be put in place for containment of a potential west African TB epidemic at the earliest possible stage. This is especially important as west Africa, with its 245 million inhabitants, is one of the poorest regions globally, whose fragile health systems can easily be overwhelmed by infectious disease epidemics, as seen in the recent Ebola outbreak.”