International Conference Addresses Drug-Resistant TB Epidemic Ravaging Russia

September 02, 1998

Sept. 2, 1998 -- An epidemic of multi-drug resistant, or MDR, tuberculosis (TB) is sweeping through the prison system of the former Soviet Union. The subsequent spread of regular and MDR-TB to the civilian populations has pushed Russia, Latvia and Estonia to the World Health Organization's top 10 list of global TB hot spots. With international travel, the disease can easily spread to Western Europe and other countries, increasing their health care burdens. When a relatively small outbreak of MDR-TB hit New York City, some 600 cases in the early 1990s, the city spent $1 billion in four years to bring it under control.

To address this growing problem, the Public Health Research Institute (PHRI) is hosting an International Workshop on TB in Russia on Monday, Sept. 7, 1998 in Moscow from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (2 a.m. to 9 a.m. E.D.T.) at the Moscow Academy of Sciences. Participants will include representatives from the Russian Ministry of Health, Russian Regional Departments of Health, the Russian national and regional prison administration, WHO, Doctors Without Borders (Medicins sans Frontiers), the Medical Emergency Relief Network International (MERLIN), the Central Tuberculosis Research Institute in Moscow, the New Jersey Medical School's National Tuberculosis Center and PHRI.

Journalists are invited to attend the meeting and a special backgrounder breakfast, TB in Russia -- Scarier than HIV, on Friday, Sept. 4, 1998 in Moscow at 9 a.m. (1 a.m. E.D.T.). PHRI is organizing this press opportunity with two other international non-governmental medical organizations: Doctors Without Borders (based in Belgium) and MERLIN (based in the United Kingdom).

To attend the Moscow briefing and/or the TB meeting, please contact Oksana Ivanova at 011 7 095 245-8613. To attend the meeting via a conference call or to receive an agenda please call Noonan/Russo Communications and ask for Ernie Knewitz, x 204, Marion E. Glick, x 221 or Tony Russo at x202.

The Public Health Research Institute directs a $12.3 million program, funded by Mr. George Soros, to combat emerging infectious diseases in Russia with a special emphasis on TB. The PHRI/Soros project has several pilot civilian programs in the regions of Tomsk, Ivanovo and Marii El, as well as prison programs in Tomsk, Ivanovo, Marii El, Nizhniy Novgorod and Vladimir. PHRI, based in New York City, has an office in Moscow to help coordinate these programs.

The TB epidemic stems from stretched resources, poor understanding of the risks associated with the disease and from decades of refusal to adopt the WHO standard of TB therapy used successfully around the world to contain, treat and cure TB patients. Already, one in 10 of the 1.5 million prisoners in the penal system has active TB and at least 12 percent have MDR-TB. In some prisons such as Colony No. 33 in Mariinsk of the Kemerovo region, the MDR-TB rate has reached 40 percent--the worst incidence rate of MDR TB ever recorded.

Noonan/Russo Communications

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