New study aims to shorten TB cure time

Daily Dispatch - - News - By SIYA BOYA

TB PA­TIENTS could soon be cured in less than six months if the re­search pro­posed by Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity’s medicine and health sci­ences fac­ulty is suc­cess­ful.

The new pro­ject, Pre­dict-TB, aims to sig­nif­i­cantly cut the treat­ment du­ra­tion in the ma­jor­ity of pa­tients.

Cur­rently TB pa­tients have to go through a treat­ment course of six months and, ac­cord­ing to the univer­sity, 95% of pa­tients that fin­ish this course are cured and only 80% to 85% of pa­tients that do shorter cour­ses are cured.

Medicine and health sci­ences fac­ulty spokes­woman Wilma Stassen said most pa­tients were cured af­ter four months but they cur­rently did not know be­fore­hand which pa­tients be­longed to that group.

“If it were pos­si­ble to iden­tify those pa­tients who only re­quire four­month ther­apy, then pro­fes­sion­als would be able to re­duce treat­ment du­ra­tion in the vast ma­jor­ity of pa­tients,” she said.

Typ­i­cally, the six-month treat­ment pro­gramme of­ten leads to de­fault­ing be­cause of the length of time.

This can re­sult in the de­vel­op­ment of multi-drug re­sis­tant (MDR) and ex­ten­sively drug re­sis­tant (XDR) TB.

Treat­ment for this can take up to two years, it is more com­plex, more ex­pen­sive and more toxic – and only 50% of those treated sur­vive.

Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity’s Pro­fes­sor Ger­hard Walzl and Pro­fes­sor Clifton Barry from the US Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health will, for the next five years, lead a group that is plan­ning to de­velop a smart set of treat­ments.

The group will also con­duct clin­i­cal tri­als in South Africa and China, look­ing at de­mo­graphic, ra­dio­graphic, bac­te­ri­o­logic and im­muno­logic pa­ram­e­ters.

“This new method, if suc­cess­ful, could be a true game changer, ad­vanc­ing treat­ment stan­dards from the cur­rent prac­tice of ‘one size fits all’ to pre­ci­sion-guided, in­di­vid­u­alised ther­apy, which would al­low for short­ened treat­ment in a sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tion of drug-sen­si­tive TB pa­tients,” Stassen said.

East­ern Cape health spokesman Sizwe Ku­pelo said the depart­ment was pleased to know about the re­search.

“TB is one of the killer dis­eases de­spite it be­ing cur­able.

“One of our chal­lenges is a de­faulter rate, which in­creases the MDR and XDR bur­den,” said Ku­pelo.

The Pre­dict-TB pro­ject will re­ceive over mil­lion (R275.9-mil­lion) fund­ing from the Euro­pean & De­vel­op­ing Coun­tries Clin­i­cal Tri­als Part­ner­ship, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foun­da­tion through the Foun­da­tion for the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health, the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health, the Na­tional Sci­ence Foun­da­tion of China (NSFC) and China Min­istry of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy. —

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