New drug combination offers hope for tuberculosis

 A new combination of drugs to treat tuberculosis (TB) could offer renewed hope in the fight against the disease, which kills around 1.4 million people globally, including 2.8 lakh in India every year.

The results of a Phase II trial involving 85 patients, reported in The Lancet, show that the new combination could kill more than 99 per cent of patients’ TB bacteria within two weeks, and could lead to improved treatment for patients infected with forms of the disease that are resistant to existing drug treatments, as well as those infected with drug-susceptible TB.

Scientists working in Cape Town, South Africa, tested the new combination of drugs, which consist of PA-824 (a new TB drug candidate), moxifloxacin (an established antibiotic currently in development for use as a first-line TB treatment) and an existing TB drug called pyrazinamide, on patients infected with the disease.

Assessing patients over a period of two weeks, they found that the effectiveness of the new combination was comparable to and could be more effective than the existing standard regimen for treating drug-susceptible TB, with the significant advantage that PaMZ could potentially be used to treat patients infected with drug-resistant forms of TB.
“Treating drug-sensitive and drug-resistant TB with the same regimen can simplify the delivery of TB treatment worldwide,” the study’s lead author, Andreas Diacon of Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa said.

An estimated over two million people contract TB in India each year, out of which over 2.8 lakh patients die annually. Tuberculosis continues to be a major public health problem accounting for substantial morbidity and mortality in the country. “The results of this study give healthcare providers on the front lines of the TB epidemic hopes for better, faster tools needed to stop this disease,” he said.

The new combination also has the potential advantage of being usable by TB patients who are also HIV positive and using antiretroviral drugs; many existing treatments cannot be used alongside antiretroviral drugs, which is a huge problem as globally TB is the most common cause of death in people infected with HIV.

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