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Novel antibiotic shows promise in shortening treatment duration of tuberculosis

ave become resistant to several antibiotics used today to treat the disease. More than 300,000 new cases of multi-drug-resistant TB per year are detected, mainly in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

"For a long time, there has been a move to find a drug that is safe and effective and completely cures the patient in a shorter time," Andries says. "A new drug that could shorten or simplify effective treatment of TB would dramatically improve TB control programs."

No new anti-TB drugs have been brought into the clinic in the past 40 years, and although doctors have effective first-line TB drugs that work, there have been difficulties getting these medicines to the patients who need them as well as effectively treating patients with drug resistant disease.

One out of three people in the world are infected with latent TB. Even in the developed world, one out of twenty carry the TB bacillus. In some developing countries, one in two people are infected. A carrier of latent TB has a 10 percent life-long risk to develop TB. However, in HIV patients, that risk is 10 percent per year.

"That is the main reason why there is now such a resurgence of tuberculosis in countries that were previously hit by HIV," Andries says. "The HIV epidemic has worsened the TB epidemic substantially."

TB is currently treated with a cocktail of antibiotics, including rifampin, isoniazid, and pyrazinamide, which must be taken for six to nine months. The TB symptoms disappear after several weeks, and patients begin to feel healthy. However, to completely clear the infection, they must continue therapy at least four more months. This is often difficult, especially for people living in remote areas in developing countries, and discontinuing treatment prematurely increases the risk of developing resistant bacteria.

To ensure compliance, TB patients are monitored under the DOT (Directly Observed Treatment) program, with patients taking their cocktail of
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9-Dec-2004


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