The infectious disease specialist: "The wrong use of therapies has led to the emergence of new lethal strains"
The latest report says over four thousand cases in Italy. In our country, between 400 and 500 deaths a year. And tuberculosis is increasingly scary. Furthermore, it could be underestimated because it is often not recognized, especially in the elderly, according to a recent British study. Immigration's fault? "In reality, only a third of the sick are immigrants," replies Mario Raviglione, director of Stop TB, the WHO project to fight this re-emerging enemy. "All over the world - reports the doctor - there has been a large increase in cases in the last fifteen years and the presence of highly drug-resistant strains that are spreading more and more, developed due to the wrong use of therapies, is worrying". Partly, out of ignorance of the medical system, partly, in poor countries, because not all antibiotics are available. The rapidity with which men and goods travel today also allows the rapid movement of microbes, bacteria, viruses, parasites which until a few years ago were confined to specific areas. Luigi Toma, an infectious disease specialist at the INMP (National Institute for Migrant Health and the Fight against Poverty Diseases) lists new fears that come back from the past. «Syphilis – he explains in recent years – has had peaks of cases in large European cities, London, Paris, Rome. It happens because the guard on protected relationships has been lowered and because of the massive increase in prostitution from Eastern Europe. Here in Rome, in particular, we have seen boys from Romania, in desperate conditions, who prostitute themselves to men willing to pay more to have sex without a condom". Leprosy has never disappeared in Italy. There have always been small outbreaks that have gradually decreased over time leading to the closure of the leper hospitals. But cases of lepers under control and in the non-contagious stage are known to doctors. And the attention is always high. «With regard to poliomyelitis, the situation is similar – continues the infectious disease specialist – even for this pathology, eradication has not yet been achieved. The last case in Italy dates back to 1982. The last epidemic outbreaks were recorded in early 2006 in Ethiopia brought, according to the government, by Sudanese refugees. Another alarm arose in 2003 when new cases with the original strain were isolated in Eastern Europe, as if the lack of vaccination coverage, due to the great political upheavals, had caused an increase in cases of wild virus polio in that area, the one from which the vaccine was later developed". Cholera made its reappearance in the late 1980s in Bari and Naples and surveillance remains high for this disease as well. Leishmaniasis was thought to be definitively defeated but instead returns. It is a skin disease transmitted by mosquitoes. It causes serious and even disabling skin lesions. Chikungunya, the bone-breaking fever, was unknown in Italy and its appearance in our area is linked to climate change that brought the Aedes Aegypti mosquito to our latitudes as well. Lastly, the pathologies of poverty are on the increase. Who thought they still had to deal with a disease like scabies in the 2000s? DANIELA DANIELE ROME - La Stampa of 22/01/2008 p. 21