XDR-TB: Extremely Drug Resistant Tuberculosis

Via Technology, Health and Development, the acclaimed photojournalist James Nachtwey is pointing his camera lens to a neglected but dangerous threat to global public health.

According to XDRTB.org

TB can usually be treated with a course of four standard, or “first-line,” anti-TB drugs. If these drugs are misused or mismanaged, multidrug resistant TB (MDR-TB) can develop. MDR-TB takes longer to treat, and requires “second-line” drugs that are more expensive and have more side effects. XDR-TB can develop when these second-line drugs are also misused or mismanaged and become ineffective. Treatment options for XDR-TB are seriously limited.


Many people think of TB as a disease of the past, but in 2007 alone, TB killed 1.7 million people. That’s 4,660 deaths a day, or one death from TB every 20 seconds. TB is the leading killer of people with HIV: Individuals are able to live with HIV but are dying from TB. Without proper treatment, 90% of those living with HIV die within months of contracting TB.

The drugs to treat a standard TB case cost only $20 per patient in the developing world, and are almost always completely effective in curing a person of the disease when taken properly, even among people living with HIV.

XDR-TB and MDR-TB, the drug-resistant strains of TB, are much more difficult, and sometimes impossible, to cure. Cases of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) and extremely drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) have been found in almost every country of the world. It is not clearly known how far these strains have spread.

Learn more about XDRTB and what you can do to help.