Tuberculosis, though a rare occurrence in the Western world, still plagues countries in Africa and the Middle East. With a lack of resources and a lack of proper medical supervision,drug-resistant tuberculosis can be a major problem. Drug-resistant tuberculosis is a strain of the virus that can occur when an antibiotic regimen is improperly followed, i.e. patients do not receive the exact amount they need at the exact time they need it, either by a lack of availability of drugs or not adhering to their treatment schedule. This allows the virus to adapt and become stronger, making traditional antibiotics ineffective against it.
This is an especially difficult problem with children, who present unique challenges in treatment. Dr. Christopher Hoehn, the head of the Doctors Without Borders branch operating in Tajikistan, speaks of the creativity involved in designing treatment for children with drug-resistant tuberculosis.
The disease can be especially difficult for children to cope with, as the treatment involves daily painful injections. In developed countries, children are hooked to a continuous IV drip to spare them the procedure, but this is a luxury not available to developing countries. Medications do not come in child-size packages, so doctors and nurses are often forced to estimate dosages and cut adult pills down to size, and medication is often mixed into suspensions or syrup to allow children to take them.
Doctors Without Borders, however, is working within its limited resources to produce stories of success. 4 year-old Ruqiya Hasanova is now on a successful regimen after the organization arranged to have special medications for her delivered from Europe. 18 year old Rosigul Shaimurdova, after developing chronic fatigue, losing her hearing, and suffering continuous pain as a result of her TB infection, is now on the road to recovery.
According to statistics published by the National Academy of Sciences, there is only a 10% mortality rate in children whose tuberculosis is drug-resistant. While this figure is still uncomfortably high, it is not at all a hopeless prognosis for the children around the world suffering from the disease, especially as research continues and treatment methods improve.
– Farahnaz Mohammed