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New York Times Examines Pilot Program To Fight Drug-Resistant TB In South African Communities

The New York Times examines a Doctors Without Borders pilot program to fight drug-resistant tuberculosis in South Africa that allows patients to stay in their homes rather than be isolated in hospital during treatment. The program, which is supported by the city of Cape Town and the Western Cape Province, aims to “show that such patients can be successfully treated in an impoverished community … even while they are still infectious,” the New York Times writes. 

Cheryl McDermid, a Canadian doctor with Doctors Without Borders, manages the program in the town of Khayelitsha. “About a fifth of the patients enrolled last year died, either while waiting weeks for a diagnosis or after treatment began. One in six of those who started treatment dropped out. But most patients have stuck with it and are now no longer infectious,” the newspaper writes. McDermid said although it is still too early to know what the treatment success rate will be, there is no evidence that patients in the program are infecting the people who live with them.

“Drug-resistant tuberculosis is a mounting global health threat,” according to the newspaper. The disease is a “particularly virulent problem in Africa, where AIDS has heightened the vulnerability of millions,” the New York Times writes. According to Paul Nunn, coordinator of the drug-resistance unit in the WHO’s TB department, ten African countries do not even have laboratories that can detect drug-resistant TB (Dugger, 7/28).