BACKGROUND--Although the causes of the worldwide resurgence of tuberculosis are multifactorial, the HIV epidemic is believed to have had a central role. Control is further threatened by the emergence of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. METHODS--A retrospective evaluation was undertaken of trends in pulmonary and extrapulmonary culture positive mycobacterial pathology, and the prevalence of drug-resistant tuberculosis in both HIV seropositive and, presumptively, HIV seronegative patients receiving their clinical care at St Mary's Hospital, London. Five hundred and thirty eight patients (188 of whom were known to be HIV seropositive) with positive mycobacterial isolates between January 1987 and March 1993 were identified from laboratory records. These were cross referenced with drug surveillance records. RESULTS--Overall, between 1987 and 1992 there was a progressive 3.5 fold increase in positive mycobacterial isolates and a 2.5 fold increase in patients with proven mycobacterial infection. This increase was greater within the HIV seropositive population. A total of 663 positive mycobacterial isolates was evaluated; the major pathogen identified was Mycobacterium tuberculosis (379 isolates, 57%). Three hundred and fourteen patients were diagnosed as having M tuberculosis, 49 of whom were HIV seropositive. M tuberculosis was predominantly isolated from the lung. Of 358 positive cultures for M tuberculosis (68 HIV seropositive, 290 presumptively HIV seronegative), only 27 isolates (7.6%), almost exclusively derived from presumed HIV seronegative patients, were resistant to either isoniazid, rifampicin, or both drugs together. No increases in drug-resistant isolates were observed over this period. CONCLUSIONS--There has been a considerable increase in the incidence of tuberculosis in both HIV seronegative and seropositive populations during the study period. The emergence of drug-resistant tuberculosis was not observed.
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