Britons Find ‘Dangerous Synergy’ of Crack and Infectious TB

Research funded by health authorities in England indicates crack cocaine users are significantly more likely to be infected with resistant forms of tuberculosis than are other users of hard drugs -- a worrisome finding given the rise in London's crack users, according to the authors, whose study is published in the September 2008 issue of CDC's Emerging Infectious Diseases journal. The paper "Crack Cocaine and Infectious Tuberculosis" was written by Alistair Story of London's Health Protection Agency, Graham Bothamley of Homerton Hospitals National Health Service Foundation Trust in London, and Andrew Hayward of the University College London Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology in London.

"Our study suggests a dangerous synergy between TB and crack cocaine," they concluded. "Users may experience addiction-related problems that complicate access to healthcare and aggravate transmission, possibly aggravated by a biological driver that may increase susceptibility to infection and progression to infectious disease."

Habitual smokers of crack cocaine inflicts lung damage, resulting in intensive coughing, shortness of breath, shortness of breath, and exacerbation of asthma, the authors say. They analyzed clinical and social data collected by case managers for all TB patients ages 15-60 undergoing treatment in London on July 1, 2003, then used univariate analyses to compare the characteristics of crack users, other hard drug users, and those not known to use drugs. TB patients who used crack cocaine were mostly 20-49 years old, and 86 percent of them were smear positive versus 36 percent of patients who were not known to use drugs, they wrote. The risk for smear-positive disease was 2.4 times higher in crack users than for other drug users and the highest among groups studied.

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