Scientists: Novel TB drug combo passes first test

by LAURAN NEERGAARD

Scientists are hot on the trail of a new tuberculosis treatment that a small study suggests might one day offer an alternative to battle this deadly lung disease, even if it is resistant to today's two main drugs.

There have not been new medications to treat TB in four decades. But the experimental three-, revealed Monday at the International AIDS Conference, is one of a list of promising compounds under intense testing around the world.

"We are cautiously optimistic that we are at the dawn of a new era for ," Dr. Diane Havlir of the University of California, San Francisco, who is co-chairing the meeting, told The Associated Press. She wasn't involved with the new research.

TB is one of the world's oldest killers, and every year it claims the lives of more than 1.5 million people, mostly in developing countries. It's also the leading killer of people with AIDS.

Standard first-line treatment requires taking four medications for six months. A frightening factor is that the bacteria that cause TB are fast becoming impervious to the two main drugs in that cocktail. The estimates there are more than 650,000 cases of multidrug-resistant TB a year. Treating -resistant TB can take more than two years, if it works at all.

Enter the new drug research.

Scientists in South Africa divided 85 newly diagnosed to take a variety of combinations of standard or experimental TB drugs,

Fifteen of the patients received a unique trio that emerged as the study's focus: An experimental antibiotic code-named PA-824, along with the pneumonia drug moxifloxacin and an older TB drug, .

In a two-week test, the drug trio killed at least as much of the that patients coughed up as today's standard four-drug therapy, and possibly worked a bit faster, said Dr. Mel Spigelam of the nonprofit TB Alliance, the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development.

That does not mean patients were cured in two weeks, stressed lead researcher Dr. Andreas Diacon of South Africa's Stellenbosch University. It takes longer to get the last TB bugs lurking deep in the lungs — the reason that TB therapy must be taken for months — but a two-week test is a standard first step in drug development.

It is noteworthy that the experimental combination doesn't include either of the two standard TB drugs — isoniazid and rifampicin — that today cause most problems of drug resistance. If additional research proves the drug trio really works, it could offer a much-needed alternative for multidrug-resistant TB as well, Spigelman said. Plus, it might be helpful for HIV patients who have trouble with today's TB treatments interacting badly with their anti-AIDS medicines.

A larger study has begun in South Africa, Tanzania and Brazil that will test how patients fare over two months. Monday's study, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other groups, also was reported in the journal Lancet.

As important, the study showed a new way to research TB treatments that scientists hope will cut years off the lengthy process, said Mario Raviglione of the World Health Organization. Today, possible new drugs are tested simply by adding them onto standard treatment rather the TB Alliance approach of testing novel combinations from the beginning.

A few other promising TB drugs are further along in the pipeline. Johnson & Johnson recently filed for U.S. approval of its bedaquiline, which it hopes will become the first medicine specifically designated to treat multidrug-resistant TB. In a late-stage study this autumn, the company will test whether it can shorten therapy time for those especially hard-to-treat . And Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. is studying its own drug, named delamanid.

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Trial for new drug-resistant TB treatment to begin

Mar 19, 2012

A global health alliance Monday unveiled plans for the first clinical tests of a new treatment regimen for tuberculosis, including for patients with resistance to existing multidrug programs.

WHO warns of drug-resistant TB

Sep 06, 2006

The World Health Organization in Switzerland has warned of a new strain of tuberculosis that is rapidly spreading and cannot be treated with current drugs.

Trial signals major milestone in hunt for new TB drugs

Jul 23, 2012

A novel approach to discover the first new tuberculosis (TB) combination drug regimen cleared a major hurdle when Phase II clinical trial results found it could kill more than 99 percent of patients' TB bacteria within two ...

HIV/AIDS linked to drug resistant TB

Nov 16, 2006

U.S. scientists say a highly drug-resistant form of tuberculosis has been linked to HIV/AIDS in a study conducted in rural South Africa.

Recommended for you

Recorded Ebola deaths top 7,000

8 hours ago

The worst Ebola outbreak on record has now killed more than 7,000 people, with many of the latest deaths reported in Sierra Leone, the World Health Organization said as United Nations Secretary-General Ban ...

Liberia holds Senate vote amid Ebola fears (Update)

12 hours ago

Health workers manned polling stations across Liberia on Saturday as voters cast their ballots in a twice-delayed Senate election that has been criticized for its potential to spread the deadly Ebola disease.

Evidence-based recs issued for systemic care in psoriasis

Dec 19, 2014

(HealthDay)—For appropriately selected patients with psoriasis, combining biologics with other systemic treatments, including phototherapy, oral medications, or other biologic, may result in greater efficacy ...

Bacteria in caramel apples kills at least four in US

Dec 19, 2014

A listeria outbreak believed to originate from commercially packaged caramel apples has killed at least four people in the United States and sickened 28 people since November, officials said Friday.

Steroid-based treatment may answer needs of pediatric EoE patients

Dec 19, 2014

A new formulation of oral budesonide suspension, a steroid-based treatment, is safe and effective in treating pediatric patients with eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), according to a new study in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the official clinical practice journal ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.