Later this year, Vietnam will become the first country that treats multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) cases with new medicines, a health official has said.

Dr. Nguyen Duc Chinh from the management board of the National TB Programme said two new medicines have been accepted so far. By 2018, vaccines that are more potent than Bacillus Calmette-Guerin will be on offer.

Hospitals nationwide are offering currently offering six-month therapy for TB patients, which is expected to be cut down to 3-4 months in the coming time, he said.

Under the national TB prevention strategy until 2020 (with a vision to 2030) recently approved by the Prime Minister, Vietnam is looking to control TB levels to below 20 patients for every 100,000 people by 2030 on the road to eventually eliminating the disease.

By late 2015, the country expects that the numbers of TB sufferers and deaths will be 187 and 18 per 100,000. By 2020, the respective numbers are forecast to be 131 and 10, with the rate of multidrug-resistant TB patients being kept at below 5 percent.

To realise the goal, Vietnam will review and amend policies, raise public awareness of relevant laws, and offer medical check-ups and treatment, especially in remote and mountainous areas.

On top of this, it will join efforts with countries worldwide to detect, treat and curb the cross-border spread of TB. Training courses both at home and abroad will be held while the enforcement of laws on TB prevention will be strengthened.

In the northern province of Ha Nam alone, a TB and lung disease hospital regularly embraces the latest technology and offers advice to patients and their families. It also sends medical staff to tertiary, post-graduate and on-the-job training courses.

Its yearly rate of TB infection is reduced by 3-5 percent. Up to 90 percent of patients with sputum smears that test positive for acid-fast bacilli are treated successfully, while the rate of deaths has been brought down to 0.3 percent. Last year, the province detected and treated over 900 TB patients.

According to the World Health Organisation, Vietnam ranks 12th among the 22 countries most burdened with TB, with some 130,000 new patients, 3,500 sufferers of multidrug-resistant TB, and 18,000 deaths annually.-VNA