A novel approach to test the first new tuberculosis (TB) combination drug regimen cleared a major hurdle when phase two clinical trial results found it could kill more than 99 percent of patients’ TB bacteria within two weeks making it far more effective than existing treatments.
The 2012 international AIDS conference here was told here yesterday that the findings from researchers and the non-profit TB Alliance of which Tanzania serves as one of the pilot studies, raised hopes of a treatment breakthrough amid the growing and dangerous epidemic of drug-resistant forms of TB that, in some cases, are becoming untreatable.
A second trial termed, New Combination 2 (NC-002) was launched earlier this year to test TB drug combination over two months in patients, further advancing it through the clinical development. NC-002 is currently enrolling patients and will be conducted at eight sites in South Africa, Tanzania and Brazil, building global capacity for TB trials.
Doctor Mel Spigelman, who is also chief Executive Officer and President of the TB Alliance, said the results revealed progress in the pursuit of an antiretroviral-compatible TB treatment, which is critical to treating the millions of people with TB/HIV co-infection, adding that although TB remains the largest killer of people with AIDS, but very often, TB and HIV treatments cannot be given together because of drug interactions and side effects.
He said the clinical trial tested a combination of one completely novel drug candidate, a new TB drug candidate already approved to treat other infectious diseases, and one existing TB drug. These results, along with pre-clinical data, suggest that this novel combination could treat both drug-susceptible and some forms of drug-resistant TB in only four months. Currently, people with multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) require 18 to 24 months of treatment. Even those with ordinary TB need to take the daily dose for six months.
“These findings confirm the promise of novel TB regimens to be shorter, simpler, safer, and, compared with today’s MDR-TB drugs, much less expensive,” he said adding that the next trial to advance this regimen was already underway.
TB is one of the world’s most ancient and deadly infectious diseases, dating back thousands of years and found in remains of Egyptian mummies. When HIV/Aids exploded in the 1980s and 1990s, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, the epidemic triggered a historic jump in the number of TB deaths. An estimated 1.4 million people die from TB, and roughly 9 million people develop the disease, each year. One-third of all people on earth — nearly 2.5 billion people — have a latent form of TB.