MDR TB now curable in children
78% of 975 youngsters had successful outcomes when treated with second-line drugs
AUTHORITIES have welcomed news that the difficult-to-treat multi-drug resistant (MDR) tuberculosis can be successfully treated in children – contending that this will pave the way towards a shorter, less toxic and less painful treatment regimen for the little ones.
The current treatment process for children affected by MDR is up to 18 months, including injectable antibiotics with severe side effects such as loss of hearing.
This week Cochrane SA – an intramural research unit of the SA Medical Research Council (MRC) – and Stellenbosch University announced research results from a large, international systematic review – which demonstrated favourable treatment of MDR in children.
The study, which involved a collaborative group of international researchers, included a systematic review and patient data meta-analysis on the clinical characteristics and treatment outcomes of 975 children from 18 countries.
The results showed that 78% of these children’s treatment was successful when treated with second-line MDR TB drugs.
According to the World Health Organisation, more than 250 000 children develop TB and 100 000 children will continue to die each year from TB.
A child usually gets TB from being exposed to a sputum-positive adult. Young children below 10 years are at high risk of developing active TB as their immune system is not well developed.
Up to now very little has been known about the optimal treatment for children due to different challenges including adherence to treatment due to the length of treatment, the toxicity of drugs that are hard to tolerate, and lack of child-friendly formulations.
Professor Anneke Hesseling, from the Desmond Tutu TB Centre at Stellenbosch University, said the latest review “gives vitally important information as to potential outcomes and some good news for the TB field”.
She said this data showed that treatment outcomes of children when treated with second-line drugs was much better than those of adults.
The review involved routine care where almost 80% of children with advanced MDR TB were cured.
“This shows that children can be cured of MDR TB and it provides a huge initiative for developing treatments which are particularly suited to children’s needs to ensure we don’t use a one-size-fitsall, adult treatment of TB in children,” she said.
Hesseling said South Africa was on track in pioneering newer therapies for TB such as Bedaquilline – which has been hailed for its effective treatment of TB and short turnaround time.
Researchers at the
South African National Tuberculosis Association (Santa) welcomed the latest findings, saying its own research has indicated some growth in TB infections – particularly in rural areas.
The findings of a global review pave the way for less extensive, less painful and less ‘toxic’ treatment of MDR TB in children – like the injections.