Malaysian MDR-TB survivor thanks Bangladesh for treatment breakthrough
Nurul Islam Hasib, from Liverpool, bdnews24.com
Published: 2016-10-27 11:21:51.0 BdST Updated: 2016-10-28 05:25:56.0 BdST
Xun Ting Tiong can still remember the pain of taking 18-month long treatment for the multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) she was diagnosed in 2013.
But when this Malaysian medical doctor, who is now campaigning for ending TB stigma, heard that a Bangladesh study found success in shortening the treatment to nine-month, she was glad.
“I could not take that nine-month treatment because it was new study that time and neither my country nor WHO had approved the new course. But I knew how helpful it would be for the patients like me in future,” Tiong said, “Thanks to Bangladesh”.
She was recalling her days of fight against the dangerous form of tuberculosis to bdnews24.com in Liverpool at the ongoing ‘The Union’ World Conference on Lung Health. This year the conference focuses on 'confronting resistance.'
Now fully recovered, Tiong like many other medical personnel with TB, many of whom were brought together under an organisation called ‘TB Proof’, is working to end TB as well as the stigma attached to this infectious disease.
TB is fully curable if properly treated. But in case of the MDR-TB, the cure rate is 50 percent.
It is difficult to treat as the expensive treatment takes 18 months to two years, compared with six to nine months for general TB.
A Bangladesh study first showed that using a combination of available drugs in different doses can reduce the treatment course to nine months.
This study was again conducted in nine French-speaking African countries which showed similar results. Based on that francophone study’s preliminary results, the WHO had approved the nine-month treatment course in May this year.
The final results of the ‘francophone study’ released at the conference on Wednesday showed tremendous success in nine-month treatment with 82 percent success rate, compared with previous long treatment that even achieved cure rates below 55 percent.
“This was so painful treatment that I could not sleep most of the nights due to side effects,” Tiong recalled as she was shocked at her diagnosis.
She is not sure how she got the bacterial infection, but she believes she could have contacted it in Moscow where she studied medicine.
“In 2013, I came back to Malaysia for internship. During internship, I was feeling ill –cough, night sweats,” she said, adding that subsequently she was diagnosed drug resistant TB.
“I was hospitalised immediately and started taking treatment. I had to take eight months injection which could cause side effects as strong as making deaf to me,” she said.
“In the two or three months of my treatment, my doctor read in a medical journal about that Bangladesh study. But it is not tested in Malaysia. We had no recommendation from the WHO. So my doctor advised me better stick to the usual treatment”.
She said one of the major challenges for a MDR-TB was to adhere to the long treatment. “Even at certain point I personally felt it difficult, but I had to continue as I am a doctor. But it’s really difficult for a patient to continue the whole course.”
She said she was also “lucky” to get support from her family and friends. “But we see many patients were isolated or thrown out of their houses due to tuberculosis,” she said. “TB is known as the poor’s disease, but in reality anyone can get it.”
“I had no TB before. But I knew healthcare workers are six times more likely to get TB than general people,” she said.
After her recovery and completing the full-course of the treatment in mid-2015, she is now mostly focused on research activities, apart from ‘zero stigma, zero TB’ campaign as a survivor.
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