The number of tuberculosis (TB) patients who have developed drug resistance has increased this year, posing serious concerns for health officials.
Setthathirath Hospital identified 20 patients as drug resistant when they came to the hospital for treatment this year.
Director General of the hospital, Associate Professor Dr Khampe Phongsavath, said last week this was something he had never encountered since working at the hospital.
“We have been seeing a gradual increase in the number of drug resistant TB patients in the last few years and we recorded more cases this year,” he said. He believes resistance has occurred because patients do not take their medication according to doctors’ advice.
For example, some patients were told to take medication continuously for 8 to 10 months but some took the drugs for just 4 or 5 months, stopping when they felt better. “This is completely wrong,” he said, adding that even though people feel well they must continue to take the drug for the prescribed time to ensure the bacteria have all been killed off.
Drug resistance is a serious issue for people who have TB and doctors hoped this would never happen, especially because treatment using older forms of medication is ineffective and patients are much more likely to die.
“The worst thing is that TB can spread to other people and we do not have the drugs to treat these people because the disease is already resistant to the medication we have available,” said Assoc. Prof. Dr Khampe.
From now, doctors should closely mon itor the way in which patients take their medicine. Ideally they should take it in front of a doctor to be sure the full course of treatment is adhered to.
To ensure effective prevention and treatment, Setthathirath Hospital is closely coordinating with the Tuberculosis Centre in Vientiane to make sure the incidence of TB is reduced by 50 percent. The target is for just 24 out of every 100,000 people in Laos to die from TB by 2015.
According to the TB Centre, Laos currently ranks fifth out of the seven largest populations with TB in the Asia and Western Pacific Region. In 2014, the centre detected all forms of TB in 4,349 cases, of which 4,263 cases were new infections.
In 2011-2012, the WHO estimated that 514 out of every 100,000 people in Laos were infected with TB. In 2013, the number of new infections fell from 492 to 204 in every 100,000 people, while the mortality rate declined from 41 per 100,000 people to 11 per 100,000 people.
In the Asia-Pacific Region there are seven countries where it is estimated that about 3.5 million people are infected with TB each year. It is estimated there are about 1.9 million new cases of TB each year. About 300,000 people or 16 out of every 100,000 die from TB every year.
Source: Vientiane Times