The Union announces high success rates from shorter treatment for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB).

The Union announces high success rates from shorter treatment for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB).

Final results from an observational study conducted with patients in nine francophone countries in Africa show high treatment success rates of 82 percent on a nine-month treatment regimen.

The study was carried out among MDR-TB patients in Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger and Rwanda. The results were presented today, at the 47th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Liverpool.

“The francophone study is a breakthrough in the fight against drug-resistant TB,” said Dr Paula I Fujiwara, Scientific Director of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union). “These results have now been replicated in many different settings and with a large number of patients, showing conclusively that this is the most effective treatment for drug-resistant TB discovered to date.”

The previous standard regimen for treating drug-resistant TB lasted 20 months or more and achieved cure rates below 55 percent. Based on the francophone´s strong preliminary data presented in December 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) in May 2016 recommended that the nine-month treatment regimen be used in place of the previous regimens.

“With strong evidence now showing that this regimen is the most effective available for treating multidrug-resistant forms of TB, the next step is for countries to begin widely implementing this new approach,” said Dr Arnaud Trébucq, a Senior Consultant with The Union.

Among the 1,006 patients who participated in the study, treatment was successful for 821 (82 percent), and the regimen demonstrated similar success rates in HIV-infected patients.

The study was carried out by researchers from The Union, together with the Institute of Tropical Medicine of Anvers (Belgium), the San Raffaele Scientific Institute of Milan (Italy) and the teams of each of the nine participating countries which included clinicians, National Reference Laboratories and National Tuberculosis Control Programmes.

Speaking at the press conference where these results were announced, The Union’s President, Dr Jane Carter, described MDR-TB as one of the most challenging illnesses a person can face. Dr Carter said that the global TB community needs to take action urgently, to find a break through innovation in the fight against drug-resistant TB.

Also at the press conference, Phumeza Tisile, XDR- TB survivor and activist from South Africa, spoke about her experience as a patient. She urged the global public health community that it’s time to make TB a priority, and to not forget the person behind the illness, saying, “It is not TB cases. It is people with TB. We are not things: We are people, we are human.”

On 13 October, WHO published new data on the global TB epidemic, referring to drug-resistant TB as a “crisis.” In 2015, 580,000 people became sick with drug-resistant TB. In September 2016, the United Nations General Assembly issued a declaration committing to take worldwide action against drug-resistant TB. The declaration recognised that within the broader context of antimicrobial resistance, resistance to antibiotics “is the greatest and most urgent global risk, requiring increased attention and coherence at the international, national and regional levels.”