09/14/2011 02:23 EDT | Updated 11/14/2011 05:12 EST

Drug-resistant TB spreads in Europe

A resistant form of tuberculosis is spreading at an "alarming rate" in Europe, the World Health Organization says.

The UN health agency said it is set to endorse an action plan to fight drug-resistant tuberculosis by diagnosing 85 per cent of all patients and treating at least three-quarters by the end of 2015.

The bacterial infection destroys lung tissue, causing patients to cough up the bacteria that spreads through the air to others.

Currently, about 32 per cent of patients with drug-resistant TB in Western Europe receive proper treatment such as taking the full course of medication to prevent the bacteria from developing resistance.

"Nobody in Europe is 100 per cent protected from drug-resistant tuberculosis," said Ogtay Gozalov, a medical officer at the World Health Organization.

Multidrug-resistant TB, which takes up to two years to treat, is spreading at an alarming rate in WHO's European region, which includes 53 countries in Europe and Central Asia the agency said.

The nine countries with the world's highest rates of drug resistance in new tuberculosis patients are in Europe, including Azerbaijan, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine, according to WHO.

Many countries in western Europe also have increasing rates. London for example has the highest TB rate of any capital city in western Europe with about 3,500 cases a year. Of these, two per cent are multi-drug resistant.