Are migrants spreading TB strain in Europe?

Wednesday January 24 2018

Illegal immigrants rescued by the Libyan coastguard in the Mediterranean off the Libyan coast,

Illegal immigrants rescued by the Libyan coastguard in the Mediterranean off the Libyan coast, arrive at a naval base in the capital Tripoli on May 26, 2017. AFP PHOTO | MAHMUD TURKIA 

By AGGREY OMBOKI
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European scientists are alarmed over outbreaks of multi-drug tuberculosis (MDR-TB) being sparked by infected immigrants from the Horn of Africa.

They say the refugees coming from Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti, could spread the deadly strain of TB deep inside the continent because they are not tested for the disease when they land in Europe.

In a report published in the Lancet journal, research data shows a worrying incidence of MDR-TB among African immigrants making the often hazardous journey by sea to Europe.

Co-authored by a team led by Dr Timothy Walker, academic clinical lecturer at the University of Oxford and in collaboration with the MDR Cluster Consortium, the document contained research findings from patients with MDR-TB.

Data from host countries collected from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control showed that 29 patients were diagnosed with MDR-TB between February 12, 2016 and April 19, 2017.

The WHO’s 2017 global TB report revealed findings that the tuberculosis epidemic is larger than previously thought.

Out of an estimated 10·4 million new cases, 600,000 patients were found with rifampicin resistance or multidrug-resistant TB in 2016.

The report attributed the mass movement of Europe-bound migrants to conflict, state oppression and economic challenges, saying climate change would play a role in magnifying the crisis in future.

Somalia has the highest estimated multidrug-resistant tuberculosis incidence, with 29 cases per 100,000 population per year