Objective: To determine the prevalence of resistance to the main anti-tuberculosis drugs in newly and previously treated tuberculosis patients in Italy and to evaluate the contribution of foreign-born and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) positive cases to drug resistance.
Methods: Methods and definitions were derived from the WHO/IUATLD Global Project on Anti-tuberculosis Drug Resistance Surveillance. Univariate and multivariate analysis was used to study prevalence rates of drug resistance in risk groups.
Results: In a national survey in Italy, 810 initial isolates of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (683 from new cases, 115 from retreatment cases and 12 from patients whose treatment history was unknown/dubious) were analysed. Low prevalence of drug and multidrug resistance was found in the new cases (isoniazid 2.9%; rifampicin 0.8%; multidrug resistance 1.2%; any drug resistance 12.3%). The prevalence of resistance to isoniazid and rifampicin was significantly higher in immigrants and HIV-positive subjects, respectively. A high prevalence of drug resistance was found in cases with previous treatment failure or default (isoniazid 5.2%; rifampicin 4.3%; multidrug resistance 36.5%; any drug resistance 61.7%).
Recommendations: Special efforts are necessary to monitor trends in drug resistance and to ensure favourable treatment outcomes among immigrants and HIV-positive tuberculosis cases.