The number of tuberculosis (TB) cases in Britain has reached a 30-year high, according to the Health Protection Agency (HPA).
Research has indicated that there were 9,040 new cases of TB in 2009, which is the highest figure since 1979, when there were 9,266 cases in England and Wales alone.
More worryingly, perhaps, is the HPA’s warning that the number of TB cases resistant to first-line drug treatment has almost doubled in the past decade, from 206 cases in 2000, to 389 in 2009.
However, the proportion resistant to treatment with multiple types of antibiotics remains low, 28 cases in 2000, as opposed to 58 in 2009, but even this figure has risen, albeit slightly, in the past decade.
HPA executive director of health protection services, Dr Paul Cosford, said: “Although drug resistant and multi-drug resistant cases of infection represent only a small proportion of TB cases overall, each resistant case requires careful and often prolonged treatment and care.
“Drug resistance is increasingly an issue in a wide range of infections. Patients must ensure they take their full prescription as instructed and, most importantly, they must finish any course of treatment that has been prescribed.”