Resistance to tuberculosis drugs has become a major threat to the control of the disease globally.

Ghanaian scientists with support from the Global Fund, WHO and the Ghana National TB Control Program, conducted the first nation-wide drug resistance survey to investigate the level and pattern of resistance to first-line TB drugs among newly and previously treated TB cases.

Using the WHO guidelines on conducting national TB surveys, a total of 927 participants from 33 health facilities across the country were included in the survey.

These were made up of 859 new and 68 previously treated TB cases.

The bacteria that causes tuberculosis known as Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTBC) were successfully grown from 598 patients.

In the study published in the journal Plos One, the scientists found the proportion of patients who showed resistance to any of the TB drugs tested to be 25.2%.

They found that the most frequent resistance was to the antibiotic Streptomycin (12.3%), followed by Isoniazid (10.4%), with Rifampicin, showing the least resistance of 2.4%.

Resistance to Isoniazid and Rifampicin termed multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) was found in 19 of the total cases.

The scientists wanted to also evaluate associations between potential risk factors and TB drug resistance. Here, TB cases that were previously treated were at a high risk of having MDR-TB.

The scientists were worried about the higher levels of Multi-Drug Resistant TB and the overall resistance to any TB drug among previously treated patients which raises concerns about adherence to treatment.

“This calls for strengthening existing TB programme measures to ensure a system for adequately testing and monitoring TB drug resistance,” said lead scientist, Dr. Augustina Sylverken.