Cases of tuberculosis (TB) resistant to a multitude of drug treatments are rising “at an alarming rate” across Europe, with an estimated 81,000 new cases every year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a report published Wednesday.

Fifteen of the 27 countries with the highest incidence of multidrug-resistant TB are in eastern Europe, but Asia has also been hit hard by the disease.

Almost 12 per cent of newly diagnosed patients with TB have the multidrug-resistant form, as do 37 per cent of those who have previously been treated for TB, the report said.

While countries in eastern Europe and central Asia were hardest-hit by drug-resistant TB, their treatment success rate of 65 per cent was greater than that in western Europe.

“In western Europe TB is widely perceived as a problem of the past, but the disease remains active, mainly in cities,” said the WHO report, presented in London.

It said 3,500 new cases were reported in London every year - more than anywhere else in western Europe. Across Britain, there were around 9,000 cases annually.

Almost 50 per cent of patients affected by the multidrug-resistant form of TB will die because no drugs are strong enough to treat them, said the WHO.

The organization has launched a multi-billion-dollar action plan aimed at saving 120,000 lives in the period up to 2015.

Keywords: tuberculosis