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.

The report

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.

9,000 cases annually

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.