A recent report by the World Health Organization warns that multidrug-resistant tuberculosis could become a pandemic in Western Europe if not dealt with properly.
WHO released a plan to diagnose 85 percent of the tuberculosis patients across Europe rapidly and treat at least 75 percent of them by the end of 2015. It says the action plan can prevent 263,000 cases of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) and the more lethal extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) between 2011 and 2015.
The report suggested only 32 percent of European tuberculosis patients are treated properly and the rest discontinue medication which allows the infection to become drug-resistant.
Every year more than 80,000 new cases of tuberculosis are reported in Western Europe. But the number is much higher worldwide. The disease is still an epidemic that kills 1.7 million people annually across the globe.
Experts fear cases of MDR-TB and XDR-TB might take a more serious form as existing medicines will fail to restrict the disease. With about 440,000 new patients every year around the world, immediate action is needed to keep contain the disease.
WHO and Stop TB Partnership identified 27 countries with the highest burden of MDR-TB. Fifteen of them are in the WHO's European region. Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan are among the countries with the highest burden of illness. London has the highest TB rate of any capital in Western Europe.
MDR-TB and XDR-TB fail to respond to standard anti-tuberculosis drugs, making them much more complex and costly to treat and increasing the threat that TB will spread much more widely.
Tuberculosis is an infection caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. If not treated properly, the infection can destroy the patient's lung tissue, causing them to cough up the bacteria, and then spreading the bacteria through air infecting others. TB is currently a worldwide pandemic that kills around 1.7 million people a year.
Alcoholism, poverty, ignorance among health workers dealing with tuberculosis patients and fear of social isolation if diagnosed worsen the situation, said the experts.
WHO estimates its plan will cost $5 billion. It said that if the plan is fully implemented 127,000 people will be successfully treated for drug-resistant TB and 120,000 deaths will be averted by 2015.