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Published on 3 April 2009

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Tuberculosis drug could save lives


A new drug designed to treat tuberculosis could save lives by shortening the time needed to cure the disease.

Research from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the US found that the new antibiotic moxifloxacin, in combination with other drugs, could cut the time it took to cure tuberculosis by several months.

Reducing the length of time taken to complete a course of tuberculosis drugs is an urgent global health priority because, despite short-course treatments for drug-susceptible tuberculosis lasting just six months, a large proportion of patients do not complete the course of treatment. Failure to complete can result in recurrence of the disease, and possibly death.

The study, published in the Lancet, looked at 170 tuberculosis-positive patients at a hospital in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

All were given a standard course of first-line tuberculosis drugs, with half receiving either moxifloxacin or ethambutol for five days a week.

The researchers found that 80% of moxifloxacin patients tested negative after eight weeks, compared with 63% in the ethambutol group.

Lead author Professor Richard Chaisson wrote: “Because treatment default is directly related to the duration of treatment, a reduction in the duration of tuberculosis therapy would substantially improve outcomes.

“Additionally, shorter regimens for tuberculosis treatment would reduce workloads for overburdened tuberculosis control programmes, especially in high-incidence countries.”

Copyright Press Association 2009

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

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