New tuberculosis antibiotic may shorten treatment time, fight drug-resistant strains

This release is also available in French.

A new antibiotic shows promise, thus far in mice, for treating tuberculosis much faster than current drugs do, scientists report. Additional evidence indicates that the antibiotic may work against multidrug-resistant strains of the tuberculosis bug. Studies in healthy human volunteers have indicated that the drug is safe for humans to take, and further human studies are currently underway.

These findings, by Koen Andries of Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research and Development, LLC in Beerse, Belgium and colleagues, will appear online in the 9 December Science Express, part of the journal Science, published by AAAS, the nonprofit science society.

Globally, tuberculosis is second only to AIDS as a leading cause of death from infectious disease, causing approximately two million deaths per year. The tuberculosis and HIV epidemics fuel one another; at least 11 million adults are infected with both pathogens, according to the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development.

No new tuberculosis-specific drugs have been discovered in the last 40 years, and emerging strains of the bacterium that are resistant to multiple drugs are an increasingly worrisome problem. The current treatment for drug-sensitive tuberculosis recommended by the World Health Organization consists of a cocktail of drugs that must be taken for six to nine months.

"The world desperately needs a new tuberculosis drug that can combat resistant strains of the bacterium and that is easier for patients to take. The evidence thus far suggests that this new drug lead may be up to both tasks, which is encouraging news for global health," said Katrina Kelner, Deputy Editor, life sciences, at Science.

"If this drug is ultimately approved for humans, it could lead to a change in treatment paradigm for tuberculosis," Andries said.

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Contact: Jessica Lawrence-Hurt
American Association for the Advancement of Science

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