NPR: 'Sputnik' Orbits A Russian City, Finding And Healing Tuberculosis

The threat is tuberculosis, but with a dangerous twist: Strains of the bacteria are widely circulating that are resistant to ordinary anti-TB drugs, and far harder to cure.

In parts of Siberia, nearly 30 percent of all tuberculosis cases aren't treatable by two of the most potent medications, the World Health Organization reported last year.

One Siberian city is tackling the problem with an innovative health program, called Sputnik, affectionately named after the first man-made satellite launched by the Soviet Union in 1957. The new Sputnik is a mobile clinic; teams of nurses orbit like satellites around the sprawling city of Tomsk, finding and treating patients with drug-resistant TB.

The program is a joint effort between Russia's Health Ministry and the American nonprofit Partners in Health. It's the first mobile TB clinic of its kind, and it allows health workers to fight the disease among the people who are the hardest to reach — the homeless, the mentally ill and drug addicts.

It's a job that's often uncomfortable and, sometimes, not completely safe.

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