New TB drugs slash treatment period by a third

A new study using potent and newer TB drugs has shown TB can be treated in four months instead of the standard six months.
A new study using potent and newer TB drugs has shown TB can be treated in four months instead of the standard six months.
Image: ESA ALEXANDER

Tuberculosis (TB) patients who have to endure six months of treatment and more can now be successfully treated in four months when using newer TB drugs, according to a new study.

Researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina, in the US, showed this week that replacing two TB antibiotics used in standard regimens, rifampicin and ethambutol, with a high dose of newer agents rifapentine and moxifloxacin is as effective as the six-month regimen.

The trial, run by the Centres of Disease Control’s Tuberculosis Trials Consortium in collaboration with the Aids Clinical Trials Group, enrolled more than 2,500 participants in 13 countries. It is the first successful short-course treatment regimen and the largest trial for drug-susceptible TB disease in almost 40 years.

Presenting the latest research at the 51st Union World Lung Conference this week, Susan Dorman of the Medical University of South Carolina said the shorter regimen can help patients to easily complete treatment.

“This is the first clinical trial to identify a shorter regimen that works as well as the standard six-month regimen” said Dorman.

“A shorter regimen will enable people with TB to be cured faster and may reduce treatment costs, improve quality of life and help more people successfully complete their treatment.”

TB is one of the most important global health problems.

According to the latest Global TB Report 2020, released by the World Health Organisation (WHO), SA is in the top eight countries carrying the world’s TB burden and which account for two thirds of the global total cases with more than 60,000 deaths every year.

India has the largest TB burden at 26%, Indonesia (8.5%), China (8.4%), the Philippines (6%), Pakistan (5.7%), Nigeria (4.4%), Bangladesh (3.6%) and SA (3.6%).

Dorman said shortening treatment for TB disease can benefit patients, families, health-care providers and health systems. Shorter TB disease treatment regimens can help patients more easily complete treatment than they would on the existing standard regimen.

“This is especially important in the era of Covid-19, which has caused widespread disruptions to care and treatment access for many people with TB. The availability of shorter regimens enables patients to be cured faster, and has the potential to reduce treatment costs, improve patient quality of life, increase completion of therapy and reduce development of drug resistance,” she said.

Philip LoBue, director of the division of TB elimination at the consortium, said: “These results help bring us closer to our goal of TB elimination. We are grateful to the researchers, clinical staff and, most of all, study participants for their important contributions.”  

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