Antibiotics lower TB cases by over half

The Health Ministry and health funds implemented a program to fight TB during the past 15 years.

March 28, 2012 04:53
2 minute read.
Medicine [illustrative]

Medicine pills drugs prescription 311. (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)


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The prevalence of tuberculosis, often referred to as TB, in Israel was reduced by more than half between 1998 and 2010 by ensuring that patients regularly take a “cocktail” of antibiotics until the bacterial disease is defeated, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday.

World TB Day was held this week.

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The ministry and the four health funds have implemented the program to fight TB during the past 15 years using specially trained teams. The prevalence has dropped from 10.9 cases per 100,000 residents to 4.5 per 100,000. The success of treatment, which is reduced if TB patients stop taking their medications when they feel better but the bacteria are not destroyed, has increased from 26 percent in 1998 to 85% today.

In 2010, some 8.8 million people around the world contracted TB, according to the World Health Organization.

Most of them were in Southeast Asis, Africa and the northern part of the Pacific region.

The Health Ministry’s AIDS and TB Department reported in 2010 a total of 344 new TB patients, compared to 347 a year before. Most of the new patients (87.5%) were born outside Israel, mostly in countries where TB is endemic.

The tuberculosis mycobacterium was discovered by Dr.


Robert Koch in 1882. In that year, one out of every seven residents of Europe and America died of TB. Despite high hopes that the discovery would help fight the disease, since then more than 200 million people around the world have died of the lung infection.

Since the 1980s, there has been an increase in prevalence in the developed countries. In 1993, the WHO declared for the first time that TB had caused a global emergency.

In 1996, TB was declared a “dangerous infectious disease” in Israel, and the next year, a national program to fight it was launched.

To recover, TB patients must take the drug cocktail for at least six months without interruption.

Doing so brings about a more than 90% recovery rate. Before antibiotics were discovered, half of all patients died of it. As people don’t like to be “bothered” to take their pills when they feel better, the policy is “short-course directly observed treatment” (DOTS).

This has worked so well in Israel that the WHO’s European Region recognized its DOTS program as a “success story.”

If the cocktail is not taken properly, multi-drug resistant TB bacteria result, reducing the success in treatment. Some Israeli patients who have not been helped by any antibiotics have been identified.

A conference on fighting TB will be held on Wednesday at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center.

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