Tuberculosis soars to record levels in UK

Cases of TB have risen sharply to a 30-year high and the number of new drug resistant strains has almost doubled in 10 years.

A senior figure in the Health Protection Agency (HPA), which released the data, said they were an 'important reality check' for the issues TB still presents to public health.

There were 9,040 cases of TB in the UK in 2009, up 5% on the previous year.

Meanwhile, the number of drug resistant TB rose from 206 cases in 2000 to 389 cases in 2009. Multi-drug resistance, while still uncommon, rose from 28 to 58 over the past decade.

Dr Ibrahim Abubakar, head of TB surveillance at the HPA said the record levels were a concern.

'The key to reducing levels of TB is early diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Efforts to improve early diagnosis and control the spread of this infection must remain a priority and be increased in areas where prevalence is high.'

He added: 'It is important that health commissioners, especially in parts of the country with the highest rates of TB, prioritise the delivery of appropriate clinical and public health TB services.'

Figures show that in 2009, nearly 7% of new TB cases were resistant to isoniazid, one of the key first line drugs in the treatment of TB.

Dr Paul Cosford, executive director of Health Protection Services at the HPA said: '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.

'TB is sadly not a disease of the past and the figures today serve as an important reality check.'

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