In Belarus, which has one of the highest rates of multidrug-resistant TB in the world, medical professionals spent months treating patients with a new medicine called bedaquiline, in addition to treating them with conventional antibiotics.
The findings, which were viewed by AFP exclusively, were shocking: Out of 181 patients who were given the new medicine, 168 finished the course, and 144 were completely cured.
According to the World Health Organization, the success rate of treating persons who have TB that is resistant to several drugs is now just 55%.
According to papers that were viewed by AFP and are scheduled to be presented at a significant TB conference later this week, the cure rate that was achieved in the Belarus study, which was 80%, was generally reproduced in bedaquiline studies in other countries in eastern Europe, Africa, and Southeast Asia.
“The results from this study confirm… that newer drugs like bedaquiline can cure and are game changers for people living with multidrug-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. Fujiwara was not a participant in the study.
The findings of the bedaquiline study were described as “promising” by the lead researcher, Alena Skrahina, who works at the Republican Research and Practical Centre for Pulmonology and TB in Belarus.
According to what she told AFP, “generally speaking, our study confirms the effectiveness of bedaquiline in previous clinical trials.” However, the results of the study did not substantiate the worries over the drug’s safety.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least 1.7 million people passed away from tuberculosis in 2017. This makes the airborne illness the deadliest infectious disease in the world.
It is responsible for more than three times as many fatalities annually as malaria and is the leading cause of mortality among those living with HIV/AIDS.
Although it causes a significant number of lossed each year, TB gets only about one-tenth as much money for research worldwide as HIV/AIDS does.
Two of the most popular antibacterial medications that are used to treat TB are ineffective against multidrug-resistant strains of the illness.
The inadequate care provided to TB patients is believed by experts to be contributing to the disease’s global spread.
In contrast to other infectious diseases that cause loss on a worldwide scale, such as HIV, TB may be cured. However, the treatment requires close medical supervision for a whole six months and involves taking many doses of medication each day.
In many regions of the globe, drugs are either improperly maintained or they simply run out before the treatment has been completed. This contributes to an increase in drug resistance, which is particularly problematic in crowded environments like hospitals and prisons.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least 117 nations throughout the world have reported cases of multidrug-resistant TB.
Bedaquiline, in contrast to many other antibiotics, does not target the bacteria themselves but rather the enzymes that are necessary for the illness to get the energy it needs to survive.
Although every subject in the trial had side effects, researchers found that these effects were not as severe as had been anticipated.
One month ago, member nations of the United Nations came to an agreement on a worldwide strategy to combat TB and to make it easier to get essential medications at lower costs.
Aside from the United Nations General Assembly in New York, global leaders made a commitment to provide $13 billion yearly to put an end to the TB pandemic and an additional $2 billion to finance research, which is an increase from the existing amount of $700 million.
In contrast to the fight against HIV, which has attracted high-profile celebrity sponsorship, TB is sometimes considered as an ancient disease that exclusively affects distant and underdeveloped regions of the globe.
This week, scientists and politicians are gathering in The Hague for a worldwide conference on lung health. During the conference, they are likely to warn that TB might spread across wealthy countries that are now dealing with non-communicable illnesses such as diabetes and obesity.
It is estimated that India alone is responsible for one fourth of all cases of TB. There is optimism that the introduction of new treatments that are less expensive might help stifle the global spread of the illness.
“We urgently need more affordable drugs like bedaquiline if we are to seriously make a dent in curing the estimated 600,000 people falling sick each year due to multidrug-resistant tuberculosis and avoiding nearly a quarter of a million losses,” said Fujiwara. “We need to seriously make a dent in curing the approximately 600,000 people falling sick each year due to multidrug-resistant tuberculosis.”