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New prevention policy needed for tuberculosis: medical expert

2011/12/27 20:08:52

Taipei, Dec. 27 (CNA) Over three quarters of tuberculosis (TB) patients aged 30 and under in Taiwan had received the TB vaccine before but still came down with the disease, signaling the need to change the TB prevention policy, a medical expert said Tuesday.

Su Ih-jen, head of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology, explained that 85 percent of the patients under 30 had taken the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine, but had later been infected with the modern strain of the TB Beijing genotype, a drug resistance bacterium with a strong toxicity.

Moreover, 70 percent of TB patients aged 50 and older were infected with the "ancient" strain of the TB Beijing genotype, he said, drawing attention to the real need of a fresh approach to TB prevention measures.

Since the BCG vaccine does not seem to always protect people from getting TB, and since its main action is to decrease the likelihood of infants getting tuberculous meningitis, other prevention methods have to be concurrently carried out, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Deputy Director Chou Chih-hao said, echoing Su's concerns.

Taiwan's current TB prevention methods include a short-term treatment under observation and tracks on those who are infected but still in the incubation period, Chou added.

According to the CDC, although the death rate of the disease dropped from 4.3 per 100,000 people in 2005 to 2.9 in 2010, Taiwan still reports over 13,000 TB cases annually.

Since the BCG vaccine -- the only vaccination against TB at the moment -- fails to protect so many people from infection, Su warned the government to alter its prevention policy or more people could come down with the disease.

Su and Chou did not offer details about alternative prevention methods.

(By Chen Ching-fang and Jamie Wang)
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