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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Drug-Resistant TB Spreading in Africa

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- More than a year after a virulent strain of tuberculosis killed 52 of 53 infected patients in a rural South African hospital, experts here and abroad say the disease has most likely spread to neighboring countries, and some say urgent action is essential to halt its advance.

Several expressed concern at what they called South Africa's sluggish response to a health emergency that, left unchecked, could prove hugely expensive to contain and could threaten millions across sub-Saharan Africa.

The form of TB, known as XDR for extensively drug-resistant, cannot be effectively treated with most first- and second-line tuberculosis drugs, and some doctors consider it incurable.

Cases of XDR exist elsewhere, in Russia and China where inadequate treatment programs have allowed drug-resistant strains of the disease to emerge. But the South African outbreak is considered far more alarming than those elsewhere because it is far larger and has surfaced in an HIV-stricken region.