A simpler, more effective treatment for drug-resistant tuberculosis has been discovered. The treatment is said to work for those who are suffering from a strain of the illness that’s resistant to two first-line drugs commonly used to treat TB and at least two second-line drugs.
Nix-TB was tested on 34 people in South Africa. The drug consists of three antibiotics that have never been combined before to treat the disease: bedaquiline, pretomanid and linezolid, according to online publication Science.
A report released in 2015 by the World Health Organisation (WHO) noted that there were about 480 000 new cases of multi-drug-resistant (MDR) TB and that 7 234 people were treated for extreme drug-resistance TB (XDR-TB).
Science says traditional treatment of XDR-TB can take up to two-and-a-half years, often requires hospitalisation and includes painful injections.
The 34 people given the new treatment were clear within six months. “The TB bacillus could not be cultured from anyone’s sputum, a sign that they had cleared the infection,” says Science.
South Africa has a higher-than-average incidence of TB occurrence. The South African National Tuberculosis Association says the country has the third highest rate if TB infection, after China and India.
XDR-TB is also on the increase in South Africa, according to WHO, which also says that people who are living with HIV are at greater risk.
“In places where XDR-TB strains circulate more frequently, people with HIV are more likely to be infected with XDR-TB than elsewhere.”
Experts are unsure when the new treatment will be available as one of the antibiotics, pretomanid, still needs to be approved.