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TB survey in China finds drug resistance rife

Health experts are calling for faster testing of the 9 million people worldwide estimated to be infected with tuberculosis each year after a study in China found drug-resistant strains were rife.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday, gives the first nationwide estimate of the scale of the tuberculosis (TB) problem in China, where there are more than a million new infections every year.

It found that one in 10 Chinese patients newly diagnosed or recently treated for TB had a drug-resistant strain of the highly contagious lung disease.

Around 0.5 percent of new cases - equating to 5,000 people a year - were diagnosed with extensively drug-resistant TB, which experts say is almost incurable.

The survey of more than 4,000 Chinese patients, conducted in 2007, follows a warning from the World Health Organisation last year that multi drug-resistant and extensively drug-resistant forms of TB are also spreading at an alarming rate in Europe.

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