Doctors Warn of Drug-Resistant Strains of TB at the Border

( – Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that infects the lungs and is more deadly than most other infectious diseases, and now doctors are warning that cases are spiking in the U.S. Antibiotic-resistant strains are also being detected in migrants that have been crossing the southern border in massive numbers over the last two years.

In 2021, TB killed 1.6 million and infected more than 11 million worldwide. It’s a highly contagious pathogen, which is why anyone entering the U.S. as a refugee must be tested and treated by law before allowing them in. If left untreated, it can be fatal as it spreads from a lung infection to the kidneys, spine, and brain.

The CDC requires testing for all refugees 2 years of age and up, and any positive hits must be reported using their Electronic Disease Notification (EDN) system which allows health officials to monitor cases of illnesses that require follow-up, like TB.

CDC health communications specialist Neha Sood said that they only catch about 10% of the immigrants who have a special health status that requires tracking due to the limitations of reporting and human error in tracking individuals’ status over time.

Dr. Linda Yancy said she regularly sees positive cases of TB that require treatment in her work in the Houston, Texas Memorial Hermann Health System. She told Fox News Digital that TB was “quite common,” saying that the cities were especially likely to have higher numbers of TB patients. She also explained that since Houston was an international entry point folks come to the city from overseas TB hotspots, bringing the bacteria with them. Most of the imported TB comes from India or Africa, she said.

TB infection is treated with a 3-4 month regimen of antibiotics and other medications to ensure it doesn’t progress to a more serious illness. A 2022 study by the University of Texas found approximately 30% of immigrants coming into the U.S. via the Mexican state of Tamaulipas over 8 years tested positive for the disease.

Waco, Texas internist Dr. James Hodges said he’s seeing an uptick in antibiotic-resistant strains, which he believes is due to antibiotics being sold over the counter in Mexico, leading many TB patients to incompletely treat the illness, allowing it to adapt to the drugs. He explained that in the U.S., doctors use a combination of medicines to completely treat the disease. Simple use of antibiotics alone doesn’t do the job and offers the bacteria a chance to adapt and become drug-resistant.

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