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Bull World Health Organ. 2000;78(2):238-51.

Directly observed treatment, short-course strategy and multidrug-resistant tuberculosis: are any modifications required?

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Department of Microbiology, Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium.


Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDRTB) should be defined as tuberculosis with resistance to at least isoniazid and rifampicin because these drugs are the cornerstone of short-course chemotherapy, and combined isoniazid and rifampicin resistance requires prolonged treatment with second-line agents. Short-course chemotherapy is a key ingredient in the tuberculosis control strategy known as directly observed treatment, short-course (DOTS). For populations in which multidrug-resistant tuberculosis is endemic, the outcome of the standard short-course chemotherapy regimen remains uncertain. Unacceptable failure rates have been reported and resistance to additional agents may be induced. As a consequence there have been calls for well-functioning DOTS programmes to provide additional services in areas with high rates of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. These "DOTS-plus for MDRTB programmes" may need to modify all five elements of the DOTS strategy: the treatment may need to be individualized rather than standardized; laboratory services may need to provide facilities for on-site culture and antibiotic susceptibility testing; reliable supplies of a wide range of expensive second-line agents would have to be supplied; operational studies would be required to determine the indications for and format of the expanded programmes; financial and technical support from international organizations and Western governments would be needed in addition to that obtained from local governments.

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