20 Mar 2008

WHO says inadequate laboratory facilities fuel spread of drug-resistant strains of TB

11:22 am on 20 March 2008

The World Health Organisation says inadequate laboratory facilities in Asia and the Pacific are fuelling the spread of drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis.

The UN body says many countries lack basic laboratory capacity to monitor and manage multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.

The WHO said less than one per cent of multi-drug resistant TB cases were confirmed by a laboratory and officially reported in the region.

In 2006 only 600 of the estimated 150,000 drug resistant TB cases in East Asia and the Pacific were officially notified by a quality-assured laboratory.

The WHO said undetected and untreated, a TB patient can infect 10 to 15 people a year simply by coughing or sneezing and the disease can be spread by passengers travelling on aircraft.

The WHO's, Pieter Van Maaren, says countries need to do more than upgrade laboratories.

He said laboratories have long been neglected, suffering from a shortage of funds, trained personnel and quality assurance systems.