Background: Multidrug-resistant (MDR) tuberculosis (TB) has emerged as a global epidemic, with ~425,000 new cases estimated to occur annually. The global human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection epidemic has caused explosive increases in TB incidence and may be contributing to increases in MDR-TB prevalence.
Methods: We reviewed published studies and available surveillance data evaluating links between HIV infection and MDR-TB to quantify convergence of these 2 epidemics, evaluate the consequences, and determine essential steps to address these epidemics.
Results: Institutional outbreaks of MDR-TB have primarily affected HIV-infected persons. Delayed diagnosis, inadequate initial treatment, and prolonged infectiousness led to extraordinary attack rates and case-fatality rates among HIV-infected persons. Whether this sequence occurs in communities is less clear. MDR-TB appears not to cause infection or disease more readily than drug-susceptible TB in HIV-infected persons. HIV infection may lead to malabsorption of anti-TB drugs and acquired rifamycin resistance. HIV-infected patients with MDR-TB have unacceptably high mortality; both antiretroviral and antimycobacterial treatment are necessary. Simultaneous treatment requires 6-10 different drugs. In HIV-prevalent countries, TB programs struggle with increased caseloads, which increase the risk of acquired MDR-TB. Surveillance data suggest that HIV infection and MDR-TB may converge in several countries.
Conclusions: Institutional outbreaks, overwhelmed public health programs, and complex clinical management issues may contribute to the convergence of the MDR-TB and HIV infection epidemics. To forestall disastrous consequences, infection control, rapid case detection, effective treatment, and expanded program capacity are needed urgently.