Health

New treatment against drug-resistant TB successful

Multidrug-resistant TB is a serious public health challenge. It affects vulnerable communities such as migrant workers, refugees, prisoners and drug users

 
By DTE Staff
Last Updated: Friday 17 February 2017 | 12:46:12 PM

A simple and new treatment has proved successful against drug-resistant XDR tuberculosis, which kills more than 70 per cent patients. This “may represent an enormous breakthrough,” according to Richard Chaisson, who heads the Johns Hopkins University Center for Tuberculosis Research in Baltimore, Maryland.

The unique treatment, known as Nix-TB, was used on 34 people in South Africa. The trial used the combination of three antibiotics that have never been combined before to treat the disease. These are bedaquiline, pretomanid and linezolid. South Africa is one of the countries with the highest burden of TB. The disease continues to be the leading cause of death in the country. Also, 80 per cent of the population of South Africa is infected with TB bacteria, the vast majority of whom have latent TB rather than active TB.

After six months of the trial, the TB bacillus could not be cultured from anyone’s sputum, a sign that the infection was cleared. Also, 20 people stopped taking drugs and no relapse occurred. TB is caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacterium. While it is slowly declining worldwide, the burden of the disease is still high with approximately 1.5 million deaths per year. Multidrug-resistant TB is a serious public health challenge. It affects vulnerable communities such as migrant workers, refugees, prisoners and drug users.

The drugs used in Nix-TB are pills. As they have been used sparingly for TB before, there is minimal chance that people will be resistant to the combination, news reports say.

In 2015, there were 480,000 new cases of multidrug-resistant (MDR) TB, and 7,234 people were treated for XDR TB, the World Health Organization says. Standard treat­ment takes up to 2.5 years, requiring hospitalisation and painful injec­tions.

Important facts

  • TB is one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide
  • In 2015, 10.4 million people fell ill with TB and 1.8 million died
  • Over 95 per cent of TB deaths occur in low-and middle-income countries
  • Six countries account for 60 per cent of the total, with India leading the count, followed by Indonesia, China, Nigeria, Pakistan and South Africa
  • TB is a leading killer of HIV-positive people: in 2015, 35 per cent of HIV deaths were due to TB

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