Spread of multi drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR) including extensively drug resistant turberculosis (XDR TB), in rural KwaZulu-Natal.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) is an airborne pathogen that is easily transmitted from person to person. An intact immune system prevents the organism from causing disease in most individuals. In South Africa, the prevalence of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has reached astronomical levels and is now fuelling the tuberculosis (TB) epidemic. Drug resistant MTB strains combined with a weakened host immune system is a lethal combination. Multi-drug resistant (MDR) including extensively drug resistant (XDR) tuberculosis is on the increase, with Tugela Ferry in KwaZulu-Natal South Africa, reporting the largest cluster of XDR cases in the world. It is unknown whether a single clone of the drug resistant strain is circulating in this area or whether there are multiple strains at play. Using 2 complementary genotyping methods, we showed that the MDR strains present are the result of clonal spread associated with the F28 family, as well as de novo resistance which manifests as unique patterns. The XDR epidemic in Tugela Ferry is the result of clonal spread of a strain belonging to the F15/LAM4/KZN family.