Objective: The resurgence of tuberculosis (TB) and the emergence of drug resistance of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) isolates are of great impact on public health. Methods: Taiwanese data on disease burden of TB and anti-microbial resistance of MTB identified from Annual Reports of Centre for Disease Control, Department of Health, Taiwan and from peer-reviewed publications from MEDLINE (1995-2004). Results: In Taiwan in 2002, the incidence (per 100 000 population) of tuberculosis was 74.6 and it was higher in aborigines (289.8) and in people living in mountainous regions (256.0). The mortality rate of tuberculosis in Taiwan in 2002 was 5.68 per 100 000 population. Susceptibility data summarized from 1990 to 2002 reports showed primary resistance ranged from 4.7 to 12% for isoniazid, 0.7 to 5.9% for rifampin, 1 to 6% for ethambutol, and 4 to 11% for streptomycin. The overall rates of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDRTB) among new cases and previously treated cases were 1 to 3% and 15 to 46%, respectively. The increasing burden of patients with MDRTB infection, the persistent high rate of mortality, the lack of nationwide surveillance system using the standard methodology to determine the trends and current status of resistance, and the inadequate current TB control infrastructure and training to accomplish the tasks required to implement the directly observed treatment short-course (DOTS) strategy are having a great impact on public health in Taiwan. Conclusions: High disease burden of TB and high resistance rates in MTB as well as inappropriateness of the current control infrastructure for TB services illustrate increasingly serious health problems from TB in Taiwan.
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