Epidemiology of Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2017:1019:209-220. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-64371-7_11.


As we move into the era of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the World Health Organization (WHO) has developed the End TB strategy 2016-2035 with a goal to end the global epidemic of tuberculosis (TB) by 2035. Achieving the targets laid out in the Strategy will require strengthening of the whole TB diagnosis and treatment cascade, including improved case detection, the establishment of universal drug susceptibility testing and rapid treatment initiation. An estimated 3.9% of new TB cases and 21% of previously treated cases had rifampicin-resistant (RR) or multidrug-resistant (MDR) TB in 2015. These levels have remained stable over time, although limited data are available from major high burden settings. In addition to the emergence of drug resistance due to inadequate treatment, there is growing evidence that direct transmission is a large contributor to the RR/MDR-TB epidemic. Only 340,000 of the estimated 580,000 incident cases of RR/MDR-TB were notified to WHO in 2015. Among these, only 125,000 were initiated on second-line treatment. RR/MDR-TB epidemics are likely to be driven by direct transmission. The most important risk factor for MDR-TB is a history of previous treatment. Other risk factors vary according to setting but can include hospitalisation, incarceration and HIV infection. Children have the same risk of MDR-TB as adults and represent a diagnostic and treatment challenge. Rapid molecular technologies have revolutionized the diagnosis of drug-resistant TB. Until capacity can be established to test every TB patient for rifampicin resistance, countries should focus on gradually expanding their coverage of testing. DNA sequencing technologies are being increasingly incorporated into patient management and drug resistance surveillance. They offer additional benefits over conventional culture-based phenotypic testing, including a faster turn-around time for results, assessment of resistance patterns to a range of drugs, and investigation of strain clustering and transmission.

Keywords: Antimicrobial Resistance; Diagnostics; Epidemiology; Surveillance; Transmission.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antitubercular Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple, Bacterial / genetics
  • Epidemics / prevention & control*
  • Extensively Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis / diagnosis
  • Extensively Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis / drug therapy
  • Extensively Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis / epidemiology*
  • Extensively Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis / transmission*
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / drug effects
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / genetics*
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / growth & development
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / pathogenicity
  • Rifampin / therapeutic use
  • Risk Factors
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / diagnosis
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / drug therapy
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / epidemiology*
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / transmission*
  • World Health Organization


  • Antitubercular Agents
  • Rifampin