Wales could see rise in drug-resistant TB, public health official warns
Wales could see a rise in drug-resistant tuberculosis, a public health official has warned.
According to Dr Gwen Lowe, a consultant in communicable disease for Public Health Wales, the situation around TB is “on a knife edge”.
She also said if people don’t come forward for treatment for the disease, Wales could see the return of sanatoriums to help treat patients.
The bacterial infection affects around 100 people here each year with one in 10 of those dying from it.
Doctors expect people to come forward later than usual with TB because of the pandemic. If cases go undetected, it can become resistant to multiple drugs.
Dr Gwen Lowe told ITV Cymru Wales: “TB has not gone away, it’s an ever present danger.
“There is effective treatment but if the treatment breaks down or the supervision of the treatment breaks down or we get increasing drug resistance then we will see the situation deteriorate – more cases of TB and that’s where we’re in trouble.’
She added: “TB is under control, but it’s actually on a knife edge. The reason it is under control is all the intensive efforts to find cases, make sure people take their treatment, make sure they take their treatment properly.
“If they don’t, they will remain infectious, TB will spread but also we will get the development of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, that can be difficult to treat and sometimes, rarely, it can be impossible to treat.”
‘10,000 people would die’
There were an estimated 30,000 cases of TB in Wales a year, of which 10,000 people would die, when tuberculosis records began to be collected before the First World War
The situation led to the creation hospitals where those with TB were sent away from the rest of the population to prevent the spread of the disease called sanatoria.
These days most people are treated in the community and in some cases, on isolation wards in hospitals.
However Dr Lowe said their return for the treatment of TB is “a real possibility” because of the risk of the rise of multi-drug resistant strains of the disease.
She said: “It’s a really real possibility. If we get difficult or impossible to treat tuberculosis or we get it in sufficient numbers that it overwhelms normal outpatient services, then we may well see the return of sanatoriums.”