The world is facing outbreaks of “totally drug-resistant” tuberculosis if explosions of the bacteria in South Africa and other poorer nations are not addressed, according to a new papers published in Emerging Infectious Diseases. At this point, researchers are working to determine how the bacteria gains its invincibility, and how to isolate it. Fears are mounting in medical communities worldwide that conventional treatments would be useless against the new disease, The Daily Mail‘s health site reports. They say doctors are warning “the world is on the brink of an outbreak of a deadly and ‘virtually untreatable’ strain of drug resistant tuberculosis unless immediate action is taken.”..Multi-drug resistant (MDR) mycobacteria have of course been around for decades, but I don't remember having read of any as being totally drug-resistant. The term "resistant" does not necessarily mean "untreatable," but dosages and regimens may need to be increased to levels resulting in increased toxicity.
They also found that it was “counterintuitive” that multiple drug-resistant TB is genetically distinct when compared to the totally resistant TB strains “because we would expect all MDR TB strains to have had an equal chance of acquiring resistance to second-line anti-TB drugs.” That, ultimately, could be good news, since they go on to note that, in addition for this development making it easier to tell the two apart among infected patients, and thereby easier to treat properly, the bacteria themselves may not be exchanging genetic information as easily as was thought, making it harder for the totally resistant TB strains to grow stronger and more virulent and likely to spread.
I got to wondering last night whether, if a totally untreatable MTb strain were to start spreading, whether my longstanding positive PPD status would confer an element of cellular resistance. Then I could become the Last Man On Earth (an old fantasy).