Prather Pediatric and Allergy Center - Ask Doctor Brent

Printer Friendly Version

Title: Tuberculous on the Rise

Category: Child Care


Tuberculosis decreased in the United States significantly in the '70's and early '80's. Unfortunately, since the mid '80's, tuberculosis has been on the rise and is now increasing drastically in many inner cities throughout our country. The reasons for this increase are many fold. One reason is the direct link with the AIDS epidemic and the large number of susceptible immune suppressed patients. Also, a large influx of immigrants are bringing tuberculosis in. Another reason is the great poverty found in pockets throughout our society, particularly large inner cities. Finally, another important reason for the rise in tuberculosis is the decreasing budget for tuberculosis diagnostic and treatment centers around the country over the past seven or eight years. Despite new technology, better treatments and shorter treatment courses, we are facing an increase in overall disease and an increase in drug-resistant strains. Some of these drug-resistant cases are coming in directly from other countries and some are popping up spontaneously because patients don't take their medicine or don't finish their course of medicine. We must make several changes in our present health care delivery system to reverse this negative trend. First, we must monitor the patients who are in TB treatment centers better. We must make sure they take their medicine to its completion and in the proper way. We must have adequate funding for TB control programs until true eradication of the disease is accomplished. We must continue to focus attention on the problem of tuberculosis and fund research to develop new and better drugs than are presently available. This may be necessary before we know it if the drug resistant strains continue to mutate.

At the present time the great majority of cases can be treated with a combination of the presently available drugs. We must work together with government, private agencies and pharmaceutical companies so that we will be certain of a good supply of anti-tuberculosis treatments when the need is present. Finally, we must do a better job of sharing information and managing the care of these tuberculosis patients. Perhaps by striving to accomplish these goals, the positive spin-off will be a similar improvement in the overall diagnosis, treatment and control of the spread of AIDS.