Proportion of Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis Remains Unchanged in California, Study Finds
The number of tuberculosis cases in California has declined over the last 10 years, but unlike the rest of the country, the proportion of a deadly, multidrug-resistant strain of the disease has not decreased, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reports. The study found that the proportion of MDR TB cases was unchanged from 1994 to 2003, at about 1.4%.
Department of Health Services officials said the finding was "worrisome" because MDR-TB cases are increasingly occurring in rural areas that have difficulty providing the necessary treatments, the Press-Enterprise reports. The treatment regimen for MDR-TB can last as long as two years and cost as much as $1.3 million.
Barbara Cole, Riverside County's disease control chief, said regular TB cases can be treated with first-line antibiotics in six months.
More than 80% of MDR-TB cases in California occur in immigrants, according to the study. Mexico, Laos, Vietnam and South Korea were the most common originating countries of the disease. In California, immigrants from Ukraine had the highest proportion of MDR-TB.
Jennifer Flood, a TB expert at DHS, said that more money should be spent to control TB in other regions of the world to protect California residents. She said, "[I]f we don't make that investment, we're definitely vulnerable to having multidrug resistant TB spread, globally and here" (Beeman, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 6/8). An abstract of the study is available online.