New MDR-TB Study Highlights the Promise of R&D in Fight Against Deadly Bug

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In a small new study, researchers found that linezolid, an antibiotic first approved in 2000, may be an effective component in the treatment of multidrug-resistant drug-resistant tuberculosis. But as previous research of this drug has suggested, linezolid is far from a perfect cure for the global epidemic of drug-resistant TB, and the findings reinforce the need for a ramped-up research and development effort to combat this deadly germ.

The most recent study, published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, involved 30 patients in California who were diagnosed with MDR-TB. Most of the patients were successfully cured. But nine patients experienced side effects, with symptoms including peripheral and optic neuropathy, anemia, rash, and diarrhea. Three patients stopped therapy.

The results are an indication that linezolid needs to be used carefully, the researchers concluded. “While receiving linezolid, patients should be closely monitored for signs or symptoms of bone marrow toxicity and peripheral and optic neuropathy,” the scientists write in the CID article.

“We found that linezolid … can play an important role in the management of MDR-TB, as long as it is used carefully and with appropriate monitoring, while we wait for better and less toxic drugs,” lead investigator Dr. Gisela F. Schecter said, according to a Reuters Health story. “Use of this drug has allowed the treatment and cure of patients who might otherwise have been deemed incurable.”

In another caveat, the authors note in CID that none of the patients in their study were known to have HIV infection and that more research was needed to investigative the efficacy and tolerability of linezolid in HIV-positive persons.  That is particularly crucial given the deadly syngery of the HIV and TB epidemics.

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