“The World Health Organization’s Global Tuberculosis Report 2012 shows that the overall outlook for tuberculosis is improving, albeit slowly. This accomplishment should be lauded; however, the world must commit to accelerate the pace at which progress is being made. New tools to help treat, diagnose, and prevent TB are needed to provide the global TB control effort with much needed improved weapons to enable increased progress against this pandemic and save lives by the millions.
“Tuberculosis continues to kill more than 1.4 million people every year and drug-resistant TB remains one of the world’s most ominous global health threats, but treatments for this disease are antiquated and inadequate. Standard treatments for drug sensitive tuberculosis must be taken every day for as long as six months to ensure that all bacteria in the patient are eradicated. Drug-resistant TB requires a minimum of 18-month of treatment, which includes more toxic drugs and injections. We must focus our efforts on developing new drug combinations that are shorter, less complex, cheaper, and that have fewer side effects.
“This past July, researchers at the Global Alliance for TB Development (TB Alliance) announced the results of a clinical trial of a new TB drug combination, which could potentially dramatically shorten and simplify treatment for TB and particularly MDR-TB patients. This is the type of ‘drug cocktail’ that could help patients complete their treatment and eliminate a major cause of TB drug resistance, as well as enable the scale-up of MDR-TB treatment around the world.
“Health workers also need the ability to identify the drug resistance patterns of the world’s TB patients so that they can correctly treat the disease much more quickly. According to the WHO, fewer than one in five multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) patients are correctly diagnosed with MDR-TB. The number is even lower in China and India, where only one in ten MDR-TB patients are correctly diagnosed.”
“To this end, the TB Alliance has teamed up with the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) to introduce better testing that can detect resistance to crucial TB drug regimen components. With a new generation of TB treatments on the horizon, we must learn what drugs will work best for each case, allowing doctors to start TB patients on a proper course of treatment as quickly as possible. Only then can we move toward profoundly greater control of this epidemic and ultimately eradicate TB once and for all.”
-Dr. Mel Spigelman (President & CEO, TB Alliance)