A Teen Battling XDR-TB in Tajikistan Strives For Better Days

Wendy Marijnissen


About a year ago, 16-year-old Shahmosa could do little more than just lie in bed all day. She was too sick and too weak to do anything else.

Now, though, says her mother, "She’s moving again, [she] laughs, and helps me around the house. We even go out together again. That wasn’t possible before."

Treatment, determination, and support have made all the difference. In October 2012, Shahmosa was diagnosed with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). Further tests proved, however, that she had XDR-TB, or "extensively" resistant form of TB.

She started treatment for XDR-TB in January 2013 and has managed to adhere to the regimen despite its terrible side effects. In the early months, the drugs made her very nauseous, and she had to vomit often. At that point, she was also getting painful injections in addition to taking a host of different pills. She had stop taking the injections when she started suffering from renal failure, however.

“The worst seems to be behind me,” says Shahmosa now. "I just get bad headaches after taking the pills. I also sometimes have trouble breathing. That can take hours. I always feel very unhappy then."

Her medication has also discolored her skin, which has been deeply unsettling for Shahmosa. More than anything, she wants to go back to school and be a "normal" girl again. One day, she'd like to become a nurse. As her mother knows, however, her first priority is getting better: "First, she must be healthy again."

Her treatment will last for another year and half. That is a long time, but Shahmosa knows that if she does not take her medication, she will not get better.

Fortunately, she gets support from her family and friends. She is very grateful for their help, just as she is very thankful for the support she gets from MSF: "Without them, I’d still be very sick. Or even worse..."


Click here to read more patient stories from MSF's pediatric TB program in Tajikistan.

MSF doctor Christoph Höhn examines 16 year-old-Shahnoza in her family home. Shahnoza started MDR-TB treatment in October 2012 but was later diagnosed with XDR-TB. Since January 2013, she is on the right drug regimen, but she will need another 1,5 years of treatment. One of the side effects of her treatment is the loss of sight to her left eye. This might affect her chances of wanting to go back to school again now that her sputum is not contagious anymore.
Wendy Marijnissen