A virtually untreatable strain of the killer lung disease tuberculosis has infected at least 12 slum dwellers in India, it was revealed today. The hospital in Mumbai that saw the initial cases, India’s first, tested a dozen medicines on the patients but none of them worked.
In India, the strain has mostly been limited to impoverished areas, and has not spread widely. But experts believe there could be many undocumented cases.
No one expects the Indian TB strains to rapidly spread elsewhere. The airborne disease is mainly transmitted through close personal contact and isn’t nearly as contagious as the flu.
Indeed, most of the cases of this kind of TB were not from person-to-person infection but were mutations that occurred in poorly treated patients. Ordinary TB is easily cured by taking antibiotics for six to nine months. However, if that treatment is interrupted or the dose is cut down, the stubborn bacteria battle back and mutate into a tougher strain that can no longer be killed by standard drugs. The disease becomes harder and more expensive to treat.