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South Africa’s XDR-TB epidemic is due to transmission rather than evolution of resistant strains
Theo Smart, 2016-03-04 07:50:00

A study in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, evaluating the social networks as well as clinical and genotypic data from individuals with extensively drug resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) has concluded that transmission – in both hospitals and households – has been the primary driver of the XDR-TB epidemic in the province, according to a presentation at the annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI 2016) last week in Boston.

“We identified epidemiologic links, either person-to-person or hospital-based, for 30% of study participants, indicating that transmission is happening in both community and healthcare settings,” presenter Sara Auld of Emory University said on the final day of the conference.

Alarmingly, the findings also suggest that there could be a large pool of latent XDR-TB in the community that could still become active disease – the epidemic is far from over.  The risk posed by ongoing transmission of the drug-resistant strains highlights the need for better TB prevention and focusing on improving infection control.