Healthcare workers in South Africa are at a significantly increased risk of developing drug-resistant tuberculosis, or XDR-TB, in a trend which threatens to further exacerbate the already beleaguered healthcare systems in sub-Saharan countries, according to results of a new study from the University of Cape Town in South Africa and the University of Calgary.
XDR-TB is a potentially untreatable strain of tuberculosis that is resistant to all major primary and secondary anti-tuberculosis drugs.
The study was based on a chart review of 270 patients in South Africa with passively detected XDR-TB, including 11 healthcare workers. Of those 11, eight were working in district hospitals, 10 had been treated for TB at least once previously and eight were negative for HIV. At the time these workers were diagnosed with XDR-TB, there were no standard infection control measures in place at the facilities where they were employed.
Implementation of infection control measures and rapid diagnostic testing for all healthcare workers suspected of TB needs to be undertaken urgently to minimize the risk of drug-resistant TB, the study concluded.