13 drug-resistant TB cases reported in Thailand

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

X-ray of a tuberculosis patient.

Thirteen cases of a drug-resistant form of tuberculosis, XDR-TB, have been reported by a prominent doctor in Thailand.

The 13 cases were first reported yesterday by Dr. Manoon Leechawaengwong, chairman of the Drug Resistant TB Research Fund of the Siriraj Foundation at Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok.

Manoon's disclosure, reported on the website of The Nation newspaper, was contradicted by Dr Mongkol na Songkhla, the public health minister, who said he had not yet been informed of the XDR cases. Another doctor, Dr Tawat Suntrajarn, director-general of the Ministry of Public Health's Disease Control Department, had insisted last week that there were no cases of XDR-TB in Thailand.

But today, Thawat said in a report by the government-run Thai News Agency that the ministry would request the TB samples from Siriraj Hospital to verify that they are XDR-TB, and the result would be forwarded to the World Health Organization.

The XDR strain is the same that sparked a health alert last month in the United States and Europe, when a Georgia man took transatlantic flights from the U.S. to Greece, and then to Canada, passing through international borders without being stopped.

Manoon said government health officials weren't paying enough attention to tuberculosis.

"We have to speak the truth and look for a way to prevent the spread of the disease," he was quoted as saying by The Nation. "If possible, the government should have the power to restrict the movement of those infected with drug-resistant forms of TB – to reduce the chance of them spreading the disease."

Neither of the news reports gave the whereabouts of the patients, or whether they had in fact been isolated.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that so far 269 XDR-TB patients from 35 countries worldwide have been found. Of the total patients, South Korea ranked first with 136. Thailand is ranked 17th worldwide on the number of patients suffering from every type of TB disease out of 22 countries.