New Tuberculosis Drug Combo Knocks Out Disease

A new combination of meds shows promise against drug-resistant forms of TB

Tuberculosis

Patients infected with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis wear masks as they wait to be seen by medical staff at the Medecins Sans Frontieres clinic in Myanmar. A new drug may help treat resistant strains of TB. (Photo: Paula Bronstein)

Jeannine Stein, a California native, wrote about health for the Los Angeles Times. In her pursuit of a healthy lifestyle she has taken countless fitness classes, hiked in Nepal and got in a boxing ring.

A new combination drug shows promise in knocking out 99 percent of tuberculosis bacteria in a span of two weeks.

A study published online this week in The Lancet revealed the results of a Phase II trial that involved 85 patients who tested positive for TB. The study subjects were randomly assigned to take experimental and existing TB drugs, undergo standard treatment, or take the combination drug. That medication is made up of PA-824, an experimental tuberculosis drug, plus the antibiotic moxifloxacin and pyrazinamide, used to stop bacterial growth that causes tuberculosis.

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After two weeks, the combination drug outperformed all the other drugs in killing off tuberculosis bacteria except for one, and results were comparable to standard treatment. The advantage the new drug offers is that it could treat patients whose TB is drug-resistant.

“Treating drug-sensitive and drug-resistant TB with the same regimen can simplify the delivery of TB treatment worldwide,” said lead author Dr. Andreas Diacon in a news release. “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.”

In 2010, 8.8 million people had tuberculosis worldwide and 1.4 million people died from the disease, the World Health Organization reports. Most TB deaths—more than 95 percent—happen in low and middle-income countries, and TB is responsible for one-fourth of all deaths among people with HIV. Multi-drug resistant strains of TB are present in a number of countries.

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