(NaturalNews) Tuberculosis (TB) was declared nothing less than a world-wide health emergency by the World Health Organization 20 years ago. If you haven't heard much about the threat of that disease lately, does it mean modern medicine has it under control? Far from it.
In fact, a group of international health policy makers and healthcare experts recently held a meeting in London on World TB Day (March 24th) and issued a series of papers in the medical journal Lancet to issue a global warning. They claim drug-resistant TB is a growing threat to millions of people across the planet.
There are two strains of these superbugs that are particularly frightening to medical experts -- multi-drug resistant TB (MDR), which is resistant to treatment with the most potent drugs used to treat the disease (isoniazid and rifampin) and extensively drug resistant TB (XDR), which is resistant to an even wider range of drugs. In the just published Lancet series ofarticles, the authors (including TB specialists Stephen Lawn of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Peter Mwaba of the University of Zambia-University College London Medical School) warn that the emergence of XDR TB over the last eight years could mark the beginning of a health care crisis -- an epidemic of untreatable TB.
According to WHO estimates, 8.7 million people became ill with TB in 2011, and there were 1.4 million deaths from TB in the same year. Already, in some parts of Eastern Europe and central Asia, more than 30 percent of newly-diagnosed TB patients have MDR TB, and the number of cases of MDR tuberculosis in the UK increased 26 percent in 2011 alone.
"The widespread emergence of XDR tuberculosis could lead to virtually untreatable tuberculosis.With ease of international travel, and increased rates of MDR tuberculosis in eastern Europe, central Asia, and elsewhere, the threat and range of the spread of untreatable tuberculosis is very real," the authors wrote. "The world needs to acknowledge the serious threat of drug-resistant tuberculosis, before it overwhelms health systems."
The Lancet papers point out that although new drugs are being developed to treat TB, it could take years before they are in place and effective. They add that money -- some might say "greed" -- is a further barrier to more research into assays used to test for TB susceptibility to certain drugs. The reason? Big Pharma companies perceive the assays as having "... little commercial opportunity and therefore remain under-researched, while companies pursue more lucrative opportunities."
What's more, one of the articles states, there's no guarantee new drugs developed against drug-resistant TB will work -- and they may even accelerate the proliferation of drug-resistant TB.
"Further improvement [in controlling TB] is restricted by outdated and inadequate methods used to fight the epidemic: a vaccine with limited effectiveness; a drug regimen that is long and that places substantial demands on patients and health care systems; and a diagnostic technique (smear microscopy) that detects only half of all cases and does not assess drug resistance of the infecting Mycobacterium tuberculosis strain," the authors wrote in Lancet.
So is this all gloom and doom? Actually, there's an interesting -- and hopeful -- bright spot in the analysis of the potential TB epidemic ahead. In their paper, the TB experts point out that non-communicable diseases interact adversely with TB and increase both the likelihood a person will contract TB and that it will spread and be sustained in a population.
Why is this good news? Because the NCDs they are talking about include diabetes, smoking (yes, they include smoking as a "disease") and cancer. And, as numerous studies have shown, Type II diabetes and more than half of all cancers can be prevented with healthy lifestyle changes including good nutrition, weight control, exercise and smoking cessation. That indicates that taking care of your own health naturally is an excellent defense against drug-resistant TB.
In other surprising news about TB, previously reported in Natural News, researchers from the University of Edinburgh and from Goettingen, Tuebingen and Strasbourg, are zeroing in on about 1,700 types of natural antibiotics found in human perspiration. Their study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, revealed that sweat spreads highly efficient antibiotics onto skin to protect our bodies from dangerous disease-causing "bugs." The research has shown one of these compounds is active against many well-known, potentially dangerous pathogens including Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
About the author: Sherry Baker is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Yoga Journal, Optometry, Atlanta, Arthritis Today, Natural Healing Newsletter, OMNI, UCLA''''s "Healthy Years" newsletter, Mount Sinai School of Medicine''''s "Focus on Health Aging" newsletter, the Cleveland Clinic''''s "Men''''s Health Advisor" newsletter and many others.