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Drug-resistant TB killed 150,000 in ‘08

Multiple drug-resistant tuberculosis killed 150,000 people in 2008 and infects between 400,000 and 500,000 people globally, according to World Health Organization estimates released Thursday.

WHO said the numbers suggest the hard-to-treat infection is spreading and said there is an urgent need for countries to set up labs to fight it.

So-called MDR-TB is especially common in Russia, Tajikistan, China and India, WHO said in a report. It said an especially hard-to-treat form called extensively drug resistant TB or XDR-TB is also growing.

The report uses new methods and new surveillance data from countries around the world, so the figures cannot be compared to older surveys of MDR-TB. But WHO said the findings are startling and show a need to find infected patients and treat them promptly.

From wire dispatches and staff reports