This abbreviation has come to wider public notice recently as the result of an appeal for funds has been made by a group of aid agencies, including the United States Public Health Research Institute, for help to control an epidemic of tuberculosis (TB) in Russia. They say that a potential global public health hazard now exists as a result of inadequate medical treatment of TB-infected prisoners in jails in that country. Because of limited resources, they are often treated only intermittently, so that the disease becomes resistant to standard drugs. Prisoners are being released from custody while still infected, and are passing the disease on. The problem of drug-resistant TB is far from new — there has been concern for much of the past decade — and the abbreviation MDR-TB for “multiple drug resistant tuberculosis” has been used in the public health community for some years. But concern is still growing about its implications, despite techniques such as the DOTS initiative of the World Health Organisation, which are intended to make sure that TB sufferers complete their courses of drug treatment.
Recent MDR-TB outbreaks have been characterized by mortality rates of 50-80% and a duration of only 4-16 weeks from the time of diagnosis to the time of death.
Frontiers in Bioscience, August 1996
Because of the high mortality associated with MDR-TB infections, it is recommended that these infections be treated only by those individuals with special training. Generally speaking, these infections require a prolonged duration of therapy with multiple drugs.
St Francis Journal of Medicine, Winter 1997