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MILESTONE: Chronic TB can now be treated for only 6 months!

Sept. 13, 2022
MILESTONE:  Chronic TB can now be treated for only 6 months!
Ifakara Health Institute Community Engagement Coordinator, Dr. Omary Juma, gestures as he briefs the media on the role of community in the fight against TB and how they can report science effectively. PHOTO | IFAKARA/KMC

For the first time in the recent medical development history, almost all patients with chronic TB, which is technically called DR-TB, can be treated for six months using oral drugs. The revelation is based on new clinical evidence presented and published recently contained in the new guidelines issued by the World Health Organization (WHO), which Ifakara Health Institute today briefs the media about.

WHO issues new TB treatment guidelines
Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued new guidelines on how to treat chronic tuberculosis (TB) using drugs. For the first time, almost all patients with chronic TB, which is technically called DR-TB, can be treated for six months using oral drugs. Based on new clinical evidence presented and published recently, the new guidelines allow the implementation of a program to treat almost all types of chronic TB. This was a major highlight during the media brief.

Ifakara in collaboration with TB Alliance - an international organization involved in the fight against tuberculosis - applauds and welcomes this move because it has been among the frontline stakeholders in the fight against chronic TB and other forms of this dangerous disease here in Bagamoyo and other places in the country.

"WHO has given good news to patients. This is proof of what can be achieved through long-term, sustainable investment in TB research and development," said Dr. Mel Spigelman, President and CEO of the TB Alliance, which is involved in drug development.

Chronic TB can now be treated for only 6 months!
"We now have a way to treat a large number of DR-TB (refractory TB) cases with just six months of all oral treatment, with simplified drugs that have manageable side effects," notes Dr. Mel Spigelman.
The drug received its first regulatory approval in August 2019 for the treatment of people with certain types of drug-resistant TB. Recently, it was tested again by the TB Alliance in Georgia, Moldova, Russia and South Africa. Other places are Belarus and Uzbekistan.

Ukraine was the first country to conduct research on chronic TB. Initial reported results were also consistent with those previously found, but further implementation of the treatment was hampered by the current invasion by Russia.

The drug is now bought by more than 35 countries around the world. The number of people who may be eligible for treatment is approximately 500,000 each year.

The new guidelines could have a major impact on the decision-making of many countries with a high burden of TB patients that are implementing efforts to control drug- resistant TB.

About TB
Active TB must be treated with a combination of drugs; most drug-resistant forms of TB require at least four months of treatment with four anti-TB drugs. About 1.5 million people died of TB in 2020, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), although the exact number is unknown, and recent research suggests that TB may kill more people.

Drug-resistant TB develops as a result of long-term drug use, or when people contract TB from other people who have drug-resistant diseases—highlighting the urgent need to develop better, shorter treatments. In 2020, worldwide, more than 150,000 cases of drug-resistant TB were diagnosed.

However, the World Health Organization estimates that only one-third of those are diagnosed—it estimates that about half a million cases occur each year. It is estimated that only one third of people with drug-resistant TB infection received treatment in 2020 .

About TB Alliance
TB Alliance is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to finding faster-acting and affordable drug regimens to fight TB. Through innovative science and with partners around the globe, we aim to ensure equitable access to faster, better TB cures that will advance global health and prosperity.

TB Alliance operates with support from Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (United Kingdom), Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Germany's Federal Ministry of Education and Research through KfW, Global Disease Eradication Fund (Korea), Global Health Innovative Technology Fund, and Indonesia Health Fund.

Other partners include: Irish Aid, Korea International Cooperation Agency, Medical Research Council (United Kingdom), National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the United States Agency for International Development. For more information, visit www.tballiance.org.

>> Read the full press release here.

>> More photos from the briefing event.