A COMMUNICABLE disease expert says a drug-resistant form of tuberculosis on the Papua New Guinea island of Daru is spreading at a phenomenal rate.
Western Province are battling to keep down the numbers of tuberculosis patients on Daru.
Professor Brendan Crabb (pictured), from Australia's Burnet Institute, says more than 160 of the 15,000 people on the island have been infected - a scale that hasn't been seen before in PNG.
Prof Crabb says environmental factors including poverty, a sub-optimal health system and poor housing and nutrition have contributed to its spread, but researchers are worried a unique superbug may have developed.
"Traditionally drug-resistant strains of TB are considered to be less fit than the non-drug resistant forms - they're poor growers and poor spreaders,” Prof Crabb said.
“The concern here is that may not be the case and we need to do some work to find out if there is indeed a superbug - a drug-resistant organism that's spreading very well."
Prof Crabb says further research is needed into the Daru outbreak, but authorities need to act quickly to contain it.
Meanwhile, former prime minister Sir Mekere Morauta says money promised for the fight against tuberculosis must be made available.
He says the national government and the Fly River provincial governments six months ago promised US$13 million dollars to fight TB in Western, Gulf and Central provinces but are yet to pay.
Sir Mekere said the money is needed right now if the national health department, provincial health, NGOs and aid agencies are to stop the crisis spreading.
He said information from the Department of Health and the World Health Organisation show that the threat from multi-drug-resistant TB in three hotspots, the National Capital District, Daru and Gulf, is a matter of great national concern.
He saids the TB problem in Daru is unprecedented and that the government should put the people first, not promote itself through showpiece events, such as the Pacific Games and APEC, and infrastructure projects like Paga Hill.