Prevention of tuberculosis, the world’s second-deadliest infectious disease, may unintentionally boost drug resistance of more dangerous strains of the bacteria, especially among HIV-infected patients, according to a study.
Treating an entire community with the generic drug isoniazid can increase the likelihood of drug resistance in a population, calling into question large-scale public health interventions, said researchers led by Harriet Mills of the University of Bristol in the U.K. Their study was published today in Science Translational Medicine.
The World Health Organization recommends giving isoniazid to HIV-infected individuals as they are more likely to develop severe tuberculosis compared with healthier people. Tuberculosis killed 1.4 million people in 2011, lagging only AIDS in deaths. While TB can be cured with antibiotics, strains of the bacterium that resist most drugs afflict about 630,000 people globally.
The study was funded by the Bristol Centre for Complexity Sciences, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
In a study published in August, almost half of TB patients who had received prior treatment were resistant to a second-line drug, suggesting the disease may become “virtually untreatable.”
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