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Fear-Resistance: How Worried Should We Be about "Totally Drug-Resistant" Tuberculosis?

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A few weeks ago a clinic in Mumbai claimed to have identified a dozen patients with a strain of tuberculosis (TB) resistant to all known treatments. TB is a highly contagious lung infection that kills about 1.5 million people each year worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), so the development of a totally untreatable form of the disease would be cause for alarm.

Fortunately, it does not appear that the Mumbai cases are completely untreatable. After evaluating the cases last week, India's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare reported that the patients actually had "extensively drug-resistant" tuberculosis, a form of the disease that is difficult to treat, but not incurable. Although three of the 12 patients have died, the other nine are reportedly being treated with antibiotics used to treat extensively drug-resistant TB, such as clofazimine and rifabutin.

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