Setting: Incident patients with active tuberculosis (TB) resistant to two or more drugs in New York City hospitals in 1992.
Objective: To examine the New York-wide distribution of Public Health Research Institute (PHRI) strain W of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, an extremely drug-resistant strain identified by a 17-band Southern hybridization pattern using IS6110, during the peak tuberculosis year of 1992. We also compared strain W with other strains frequently observed in New York.
Design: Blinded retrospective study of stored M. tuberculosis cultures by restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) DNA fingerprinting, and chart review.
Results: We found 112 cultures with the strain W fingerprint and 8 variants in 21 hospitals among incident patients hospitalized in 1992. Almost all isolates were resistant to four first-line drugs and kanamycin. This single strain made up at least 22% of New York City multiple-drug-resistant (MDR) TB in 1992, far more than any other strain. Almost all W-strain cases were acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) patients. The cluster is the most drug-resistant cluster identified in New York and the largest IS6110 fingerprint cluster identified anywhere to date.
Conclusion: Because recommended four-drug therapy will not sterilise this very resistant strain, there was a city-wide nosocomial outbreak of W-strain TB in the early 1990s among New York AIDS patients. Other frequently seen strains were either also very resistant, or, surprisingly, pansusceptible. Individual MDR strains can be spread widely in situations where AIDS and TB are both common.