A new treatment strategy could save tens of thousands of lives worldwide.
Have we reached a turning point in the battle against tuberculosis?
TB is one of the deadliest diseases known to man, requiring extensive treatment with pills and injections even in successful cases, and it still infects tens of thousands of people even today. But new international guidelines may create hope for those people, and could cut the lengthy treatment program down to just nine months, according to a World Health Organization statement.
There are a total of 480,000 TB cases worldwide, resulting in 190,000 deaths. Currently, the rate of successful treatment is just 50 percent, and that’s mostly because people don’t want to complete the arduous and extremely long treatment program that can stretch out two years. By shortening that time frame, this new program could dramatically increase successful treatments.
In addition, the WHO is recommending a faster test for MDR-TB that provides results in just two days. Today, a test takes three months to confirm.
The treatment plan is also a lot cheaper at $1,000 per patient, compared to $2,400 for conventional treatments.
“This is a critical step forward in tackling the MDR-TB public health crisis,” Dr. Mario Raviglione, Director of WHO’s Global TB Programme, said in the statement. “The new WHO recommendations offer hope to hundreds of thousands of MDR-TB patients who can now benefit from a test that quickly identifies eligibility for the shorter regimen, and then complete treatment in half the time and at nearly half the cost.”
The WHO noted that the shorter regimen is specifically recommended for patients diagnosed with uncomplicated MDR-TB.
“It is also recommended for individuals who have not yet been treated with second line drugs,” the statement adds. “WHO’s recommendations on the shorter regimens are based on initial programmatic studies involving 1200 patients with uncomplicated MDR-TB in 10 countries. WHO is urging researchers to complete ongoing randomised controlled clinical trials in order to strengthen the evidence base for use of this regimen.”