Tuberculosis: a forgotten challenge.

P Martins, A Machado, A D Alves, P Valente, P G Dias


Tuberculosis continues to be a serious problem in public health even thought eh causative bacillus was discovered over 100 years ago. The authors present a clinical case that illustrates the current concern regarding the disease. The case concerns a child of emigrant parents, who are drug addicts and whose illness has not been fully ascertained. The child was hospitalised at three and an half months with fever, malnutrition, opisthotonos and hepatosplenomegaly. After the diagnosis of disseminated tuberculosis affecting the central nervous system, treatment was started with five antituberculosis drugs and with corticosteroids. Respiration improved favourably, but after 19 days the patient suffered a partial tonic-clonic seizure. Subsequently, hydrocephalus was observed and a shunt was applied. Bacteriological examination of the gastric aspirate showed a strain of Mycobacterium tuberculosis resistant to isoniazid and streptomycin. In the eight month of therapeutics, three antituberculosis drugs were still being administered, the shunt was still present and the patient showed a severe psychomotor retardation. The child belonged to a risk group and presented a serious form of tuberculosis with multidrug-resistance, illustrating that this group of children is particularly vulnerable and reflect transmission of this illness among adults.

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