Breakthrough in multi-drug resistant TB treatment

22 July 2014
An HIV ribbon

At the first day of the 20th International AIDS Conference a major breakthrough in treatment of tuberculosis (TB) has been announced. Experiments with a new cocktail of three drugs to treat patients infected with TB strains that are hard to cure with conventional antibiotics, can not only improve the treatment of TB and its multi-drug resistant strains, but also shorten the treatment period.

Currently, 650,000 people around the world suffer from multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB. With a global increase of 9 million new infectious each year, the number of people suffering of MDR TB is only expected to grow. As most patients are unable to access adequate treatment due to economic, geographic and physical constraints, new regimens that are shorter, less costly, better tolerated, in oral doses and compatible with anti-retroviral therapy are urgently needed to treat TB.

The trial reported entailed testing the new drug regimen, PaMZ, against standard drugs - isoniazid, rifampicin, pyrazinamide and ethambutol - among 207 volunteers in South Africa. One fifth of the cohort were co-infected with HIV. Results showed that 71 percent of the participants on PaMZ were cleared of TB bacteria in their sputum at the end of the eight week treatment scheme, versus 38 percent of people in the control group who were taking the standard HRZE therapy.

When this new treatment regime is accredited on the market this could mean that TB treatment can become, cheaper, safer and more effective. Meaning greater or improved access to TB treatment and translating into cost savings of more than 90 percent in some countries, as MDR therapy is complex and labour-intensive.

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