Woman from India being treated for rare TB strain in US

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: Jun 10, 2015 10:02 IST

A woman, who arrived in America from India recently, was moved to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) last Friday to be treated for a strain of tuberculosis that is rare in the United States, officials said.

The patient, who was not identified by authorities, is being treated in isolation at Bethesda, Maryland's National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is a complex of medical facilities geared towards research, much like All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

NIH told Hindustan Times the patient's condition was stable.

"The patient is staying in an isolation room in the NIH Clinical Center specifically designed for handling patients with respiratory infections, including XDR-TB," it said in a statement.

She is being treated according to "existing NIH clinical protocol for treating TB, including XDR forms" at the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB), as the strain is called, is a form of TB which is resistant to at least 4 of the core anti-TB drugs, according to World Health Organization.

It is rare in the United States with only 63 cases reported between 1993 and 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which monitors health issues.

It was not clear till the filing of this report if the patient is an Indian citizen or an Indian-American who had just returned from India. The Indian embassy was checking out.

She arrived in the US from India — at Chicago's international airport —seven weeks ago and travelled around the country by road, staying in Tennessee and Missouri for a while.

Authorities are also going through the passenger manifest of her flight to determine if she passed on the infection, which travels through air — cough, sneeze and speech.

Illinois state officials have said she had been treated in India for TB, but gave out no other details of when that took place and whether she completed her treatment.

XDR-TB is more common among people who had contracted TB earlier and misused or mismanaged the medicine — or got it from someone with drug-resistant TB.

XDR-TB is curable, said the US CDC.

"Some TB control programs have shown that a cure is possible for an estimated 30% to 50% of affected people."

India figures on the WHO's list of 77 countries that had reported at least one case of XDR-TB till 2011. Researchers believe India has more, unreported and uncounted.

Know the strain

What is XDR-TB?

It is an abbreviation for extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) and is a form of TB which is resistant to at least 4 of the core anti-TB drugs.

How do people get it?

Two ways. One, someone who got TB but did not complete the treatment adequately — the medicines were misused or mismanaged. Two, from some who has drug-resistant TB.

How does it spread?

It spreads the same way as TB. TB bacteria are put into the air when a person with TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, shouts, or sings.

Can it be treated, cured?

Yes, says CDC, in some cases.

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