Tuberculosis still burdens Vietnam: doctors

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Tuberculosis is still a major health risk in Vietnam, which ranks 12th in the world for most TB patients with nearly 200,000 new cases and 30,000 deaths recorded every year, according to reports heard at a March 20 meeting.

One of the challenges to the country's fight against TB is the high number of TB patients who are resistant to medicines prescribed for the disease, heard the meeting, held in response to World TB Day, which is organized on March 24 every year.

Vietnam now has 5,000-6,000 drug-resistant TB patients, and it was estimated that up to 20 percent of TB patients cannot be treated due to their resistance to drugs.

Dr. Tran Ngoc Buu from Ho Chi Minh City's Pham Ngoc Thach Hospital, which specializes in TB cases, said most TB patients quit treatment when they begin feeling better after having taken the prescribed drugs for a couple of months.

The incomplete treatment renders patients susceptible to relapse and likely to have developed resistance to TB drugs, he stressed.

It takes 19-24 months to treat drug-resistant TB patients, who may suffer from many unwanted side-effects atypical of the six-months of treatment regular TB patients receive, according to the doctor.

He warned that if patients repeatedly fail to "strictly" follow the treatment prescribed for drug-resistant TB patients, they will become "super-resistant," a condition which carries a high death rate.

As TB drugs have not changed much over the years, treating the population will be exceedingly difficult if more patients develop resistance to the drugs, which in turn will pose high risks to the entire community, Buu said

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