This article is from the In-Depth Report Multidrug Resistant Tuberculosis in Russia

Tamping Down Tuberculosis in Russia [Slide Show]

The methods for fighting the multidrug resistant TB epidemic in Russia

Merrill Goozner/© Scientific American

View the Treating TB in Russia Slide Show

Tuberculosis (TB) is back in a big way in a big country. The economic collapse that followed the end of communism in Russia in the early 1990s has given rise to a TB epidemic in vast regions of the continent-size country. Researchers say that squalid living conditions, skyrocketing prison populations and rampant drug and alcohol use, coupled with the decline of social services, led to this spike in TB cases.

One hard-hit area is the Tomsk Oblast, or province. This Poland-size area reports that TB infection rates in recent years have declined slightly, to 102.7 new cases annually per 100,000 people. (Comparatively, the U.S. has only about four cases per 100,000 people yearly.)

More alarmingly, some multidrug resistant (MDR) strains of TB have popped up as well. These cases can require treatment lasting two years and involving six to eight different drugs, some of which must be administered daily. In parts of Siberia, where Tomsk is located, this hard-to-treat variety appears in more than 15 percent of the diagnosed patients.

In this slide show, reporter Merrill Goozner documents what he saw during his investigation of the TB epidemic in Russia. Read his articles chronicling the outbreak in’s In-Depth Report on Tuberculosis in Siberia, including coverage of the community-based fight against the disease and how close-quartered prison populations have incubated the bacteria.

View the Treating TB in Russia Slide Show

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