LIVERPOOL, England – Presenting results today of a nine month treatment regimen that led to an 82 percent cure rate among 1006 patients with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, researchers called their findings a breakthrough that can support countries in adopting shorter, more effective and potentially less damaging treatment for TB that is resistant to more than one first line treatment.
The findings, from a study carried out across nine francophone countries in Africa, represent a substantial improvement over a previous standard treatment regimen requiring more than double the length of treatment time (at the very least), and led to cure rates only a little higher than 50 percent.
The francophone study presented similarly encouraging preliminary results in Cape Town at the 2015 Union World Conference on Lung Health, results that prompted World Health recommendations in May of this year endorsing the shorter treatment.
While that recommendation carried the weight of the international health agency that sets treatment standards that lead to policy changes, strong evidence supplied by trial results are likely to prompt countries to move more quickly, Valerie Schwoebel said today, as she announced the results.
“Between research results and impact on the ground, there’s a long way to go,” she added.
The shorter regimen still includes a medicine that causes permanent hearing loss in some patients, including Phumeza Tisile of South Africa who described today how, one morning four months into her treatment for multidrug resistant tuberculosis, she couldn’t hear the toilet flush, the tap run water, nor the doctor confirm what had happened, and who then wrote it down: “You’re deaf.”
Her exposure to the toxic drug would have been shorter, and that might spare some future patients researchers noted. And, noted Union President Jane E. Carter, earlier diagnosis of her drug resistance too, would have spared Tisile from longer exposure to pointless treatment.
The francophone study took place in Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Cote d’Voire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Niger, and Rwanda.