Medical Professionals Online

TB Traveller Discharged From Hospital And Flies Back To Georgia

August 11, 2017

Andrew Speaker, the Atlantan lawyer who travelled between Europe and the US while infected with a resistant form of TB that is hard to treat, has been discharged from hospital following a successful operation to remove an infected part of his lung. He flew back to Georgia after being discharged from the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver at 6 am on Thursday morning.

Speaker underwent surgery at the University of Colorado Hospital at the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colorado, and then returned to the National Jewish in Denver to continue in-patient treatment for multi drug resistant tuberculosis.

Doctors at the National Jewish said Speaker is not completely cured yet, but the surgery and antibiotic treatment have removed any traces of infected tissue, and he is no longer contagious.

Director of the Adult Infectious Disease Care Unit at National Jewish, Dr Gwen Huitt told the press:

"Treatment for Mr. Speaker went very well, and we were able to release him more quickly than we originally anticipated."

"Although we believe there are still a few tuberculosis bacteria in his lungs, ongoing antibiotic therapy should kill those. We expect him to return to a full and active life," she added.

Speaker will be on antibiotics for another two years, and there will be no further restrictions on his movements, except that health officials will be making sure he takes his medication every day.

"I feel great," Speaker said in a cellphone interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

He is well aware of the publicity that surrounds him and said he wonders if "Will people freak out with their kids" when they see him at the grocery store. "Unfortunately, the way the story has been told and the way CDC handled things, that's how people were made to feel," he said in the interview.

He could have flown back to Georgia by commercial airline, because he is no longer contagious, but given the extraordinary publicity surrounding his case, everyone involved, including Speaker himself, agreed it would be better for him to fly back by air ambulance and avoid undue public alarm.

Speaker and his family were met by his parents when he came off the air ambulance and they drove to an undisclosed location where he will continue his recuperation.

According to the National Jewish, Speaker has been on a spectrum of antibiotics since he arrived at the hospital 8 weeks ago. He had surgery on July 17th, to remove the upper right lobe of his lung, which contained a tennis ball sized area of infected tissue. The CT scans he had before surgery showed the antibiotics had been effective in reducing the infection.

"I really appreciate the quality of care I have gotten from all the people at National Jewish," said Speaker.

"Thanks to all they do, patients like me are able to walk out of here not only well, but better in so many ways," he added.

Speaker has been released from the isolation order placed on him by the Denver Public Health authority and he is instructed to seek medical attention and continue to have "directly observed" therapy, where a health professional must watch him take his daily medication to make sure he completes the therapy.

The hospital recommends directly observed therapy for all its drug resistant TB patients because the treatment time is so long (two years in Speaker's case) and if the patient does not complete it, it raises the risk that he or she has a relapse and develops a more resistant form of the disease.

Apart from the directly observed therapy there are no other restrictions on Speaker, said the National Jewish. "He does not have to wear any kind of mask and neither do the people around him", they said.

Speaker will probably go back to the National Jewish in several months for follow up evaluation.

The original diagnosis by US public health officials when he left the US and travelled by commercial airliner to Europe, was that Speaker had extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis, XDR-TB, but this was changed to multi drug resistant tuberculosis, MDR-TB, which is still hard to treat, but not as hard as XDR-TB.

Click here for more information about the National Jewish Medical and Research Center

Click here for Fact Sheet on Multi Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR-TB) from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

: Catharine Paddock