Health department spokeswoman Charity Bhengu said the XDR TB strain was resistant to all first-level drugs (ordinary treatment given to TB patients) and to two of the five categories of the second-level drugs -to treat multi-drug-resistant (MDR) patients.
The department is working round-the-clock the clock to address this problem.
She said the department was looking at getting two more drugs to replace the two second-level drugs that the XDR was resistant to.
The two new drugs have been identified and are in a process of being registered to fast track the process.
According to Bhengu, the government spent R400 for treating every patient with ordinary TB.
When these patients default treatment and develop a MDR TB, the cost of treatment dramatically increases to R24,000, which includes hospitalisation and more expensive drugs.
To reverse the tide of the TB crisis in the country, the government developed a TB Crisis Management Plan which focused on four districts in KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and Gauteng.
Fifty-two of the 53 patients who contracted XDR TB in the Tugela Ferry area of KwaZulu-Natal, one of the provinces with the highest rates of HIV in the country, died from the outbreak, Karin Weyer, a tuberculosis expert at the Medical Research Council told French news agency AFP.
Nomfundo Eland of the Treatment Action Campaign, said many TB patients had contracted the disease as they had not followed their full course of drug treatment.
When they fail to so, they often develop MDR TB, she told AFP.
Bhengu said the department had committed an extra R36 million to deal with the crisis in the affected areas, and was working closely with Professor Willem Sturm of the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine.
There will be two-day conference from Thursday - which will be attended by representatives of the Medical Research Council, World Health Organisation and US Centres for Disease Control to deal with the TB problem, Bhengu said.
Johannesburg, 4 September 2006