SCOTS hospitals are facing a critical shortage of drugs vital for fighting tuberculosis.
Public health minister Michael Matheson has admitted that hospitals across the country are having difficulties obtaining medicine to combat the disease.
And now a national action group has been set up to combat the issue.
Cases of tuberculosis recently hit their highest levels in the UK for 30 years.
There were 9153 infections in the UK in 2009 – the highest since 1979 when there were 9266 cases.
The number of newly diagnosed cases in Scotland rose last year to 507.
TB is potentially fatal but can be cured with a cocktail of antibiotics which last at least six months.
Michael Matheson said: “There are difficulties in obtaining supplies of TB drugs across the UK.
“As a consequence, the UK Commercial Medicine Unit has taken the lead to establish a group on a four countries basis to consider what actions are necessary.”
Leading bacteriologist Professor Hugh Pennington said: “This is of significant concern.
“The availability of each of the drugs in the treatment of TB is absolutely vital because if you give someone an incomplete course you encourage resistance.
“And we do not want to go down that route.”
He added: “It would also be a scandal if we couldn’t treat someone who is chronically ill because we couldn’t get the appropriate drugs.
“We certainly don’t want to return to Victorian times when doctors had to cut out sufferers’ lungs.”
But Mr Matheson added: “No specific assessment has been carried out of the risk to people developing drug-resistant TB as a result of inconsistent supply of anti-TB drugs.
“While there is a theoretical possibility that resistant strains of TB can emerge due to inappropriate drug therapy, drug-resistant TB can also be spread from person to person.
“Inappropriate therapy is not the only source of such infection.”
TB was a major cause of death in the UK until the mid-1950s when Edinburgh University physician Sir John Crofton developed the antibiotics.
The recent rise in cases has been linked to immigration as well as drug and alcohol abuse and more widespread foreign travel.
The main symptom is a persistent cough that can cause suffers to bring up blood.
Sweating, fever and weight loss as well as tiredness and loss of appetite are also common.
Transmission occurs through coughing of infectious droplets and usually requires prolonged contact with the sufferer.
Doctors recently warned that without global investment potentially unstoppable forms of the disease could emerge.
A scarcity of raw materials has been blamed for the drug supply issues.