Former tuberculosis patients are suffering a resurgence of the disease, with symptoms including paralysis and respiratory failure. Doctors say the phenomenon could be due to incomplete treatment in the past. Keith Luk Dip-kei, head of the department of orthopaedic surgery at the University of Hong Kong, said these patients recovered after being given drugs. But they did not receive spinal surgery that could have minimised deformity and reduced the chance of spinal tuberculosis later in life by removing infected tissue. 'We are actually seeing some patients now who were deemed treated 30 to 40 years ago but have seen a reactivation of the disease,' Professor Luk said yesterday. In spinal tuberculosis, bacteria spreads from the lungs to the blood and enters the spine. The phenomenon is linked with a resurgence of tuberculosis in Hong Kong due to drug-resistant bacteria, diabetes, HIV and steroid use. Some 6,025 new tuberculosis cases were reported last year, making it the most common infectious disease after chickenpox. Up to September this year, 4,810 people have been diagnosed. Professor Luk believed the Hospital Authority's figure of 96 spinal cases was an underestimate. He said people who had a history of tuberculosis and experienced back pain should seek medical advice. A patient who wished to be named only as Mr Chiu said he developed spinal deformities in his teens. 'I just got used to it and did not seek treatment,' said the 52-year-old. But in 1999 he became bed-ridden and could not walk. He was diagnosed with spinal tuberculosis, which could have been a reactivation of his childhood illness.