Anti-TB drug game changer
Doctors in Belarus—a country with one of the highest rates of multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis in the world—spent months treating patients with a new drug, bedaquiline, alongside other antibiotics. The results, seen exclusively by AFP, were startling: Of the 181 patients given the new drug, 168 people completed the course and 144 were totally cured. The World Health Organization says currently only 55 percent of people with multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis are successfully treated. The Belarus trial cure rate—80 percent—was largely replicated in bedaquiline trials in other countries in eastern Europe, Africa, and Southeast Asia, according to abstracts seen by AFP, due to be unveiled at a major tuberculosis conference later this week. “The results from this study confirm... that newer drugs like bedaquiline can cure and are game changers for people living with multi-drug-resistant and extremely drug-resistant tuberculosis,” Paula Fujiwara, scientific director of The International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease who was not involved in the research, told AFP. Lead researcher Alena Skrahina, from the Republican Research and Practical Centre for Pulmonology and TB in Minsk, called the bedaquiline results “promising.” “Generally, our study confirms the effectiveness of bedaquiline in previous clinical trials, and does not confirm the concerns about safety problems,” she told AFP. Tuberculosis killed at least 1.7 million people in 2017, according to the WHO, making the airborne infection the world’s deadliest infectious disease.