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Adult tuberculosis overview: African versus Western perspectives

Johnson, John L. MD; Ellner, Jerrold J. MD

Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine: May 2000 - Volume 6 - Issue 3 - p 180-186
Infectious diseases

Tuberculosis is currently an enormous global health problem. In industrialized countries in Western Europe and North America, tuberculosis case rates are low and an increasing proportion of cases now occur in foreign-born individuals and in marginalized populations, including the homeless, prisoners, drug users, and persons with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). In contrast, the burden of tuberculosis in sub-Saharan Africa continues to grow, largely fueled by the HIV pandemic and poor public health infrastructure. Use of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) directly observed therapy, short course (DOTS) strategy has been successful in improving outcomes and preventing the emergence of acquired drug resistance in several African countries; however, case rates are increasing throughout most of the region. It is clear that control of tuberculosis in Africa is closely linked to control of HIV and AIDS. Substantial external donor support and innovative approaches to enhance interactions between HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment efforts and tuberculosis control programs will be needed to improve the current tuberculosis situation in Africa. The purpose of this review is to provide a synopsis of recent developments in these areas and to serve as a reference source for interested readers.

Department of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals of Cleveland, Ohio, USA, and Department of Medicine, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Newark, New Jersey, USA.

Correspondence to John L. Johnson, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Room E-202 Tuberculosis Research Unit, 10900 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44106-4984, USA; e-mail:

Copyright © 2000 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.