tuberculosis test tubes BSIP | getty images

Het winnen van de oorlog tegen tuberculose

SEATTLE – Mensen vechten al sinds de Steentijd tegen tuberculose, maar alleen de afgelopen eeuw is er echt vooruitgang geboekt in de strijd tegen de ziekte. Een vaccin, dat in 1921 voor het eerst op mensen werd toegepast, is vandaag nog steeds in gebruik. En een aantal antibiotica, te beginnen met streptomycine in de jaren veertig, is effectief gebleken in de behandeling van tbc-infecties.

Sinds 1990 is het jaarlijkse sterftecijfer als gevolg van tuberculose bijna gehalveerd. Van 2000 tot 2014 hebben betere diagnoses en behandelingen zo'n 43 miljoen levens gered. De vooruitgang verloopt intussen echter nog maar heel traag, wat erop duidt dat de strijd nog zeker niet gestreden is. De jaarlijkse daling van het aantal gevallen heeft de afgelopen tien jaar slechts 1,65% bedragen; in 2014 overleden er nog steeds 1,5 miljoen mensen aan tuberculose.

Intussen worden bepaalde varianten van de ziekte resistent tegen behandeling. Het verkeerde gebruik en het verkeerde beheer van antibiotica heeft geresulteerd in een vorm van tuberculose die bestand is tegen meerdere geneesmiddelen. Deze varianten moeten bestreden worden met andere medicaties, die duurder zijn en vaak tot zwaardere neveneffecten leiden. Er zijn ook varianten opgedoken die bestand zijn tegen deze alternatieve medicaties; zij staan bekend als extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB).

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