WHO reports highest ever levels of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis

3 February 2012 - Geneva - A new WHO study has revealed the highest ever global rates of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB).

The study, published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, reports that drug resistance was found in 3.4% of all new TB cases and 20% of previously treated cases globally.

Countries in eastern Europe and central Asia reported the highest proportions of MDR-TB among TB cases. Nearly 30% of new TB patients in the oblast of Murmansk in the Russian Federation and 65% of previously treated patients in the Republic of Moldova had MDR-TB.

The study provides the most complete analysis of the MDR-TB problem to date. However, there is still a lack of data from many countries where TB is particularly devastating.

"Following 15 years of intensive effort, we now have high quality data for two-thirds of countries in the world," said Dr Matteo Zignol, from the Stop TB Department at the World Health Organization. "At the same time, we don’t know the full extent of the problem because we lack data from many countries, in particular India and most of Africa where the TB burden is high."

The study also includes data from 57 countries on the proportion of extensively drug-resistant TB among MDR-TB cases. Combined data from all countries showed that extensive drug resistance was present in nearly 10% of MDR-TB cases.

Read the study in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization [.pdf].