Geneva, Switzerland – The World Health Organization (WHO) released Thursday recommendations on a treatment plan that could help cure thousands of patients worldwide with superbug forms of tuberculosis (TB). The new treatment speeds up the process since it can be completed within 9 to 12 months instead of the two years the agency previously advised.
Mario Raviglione, head of the WHO’s global TB program, said the shorter treatment costs less than $1,000 per patient in developing countries, as reported by Reuters. This means that a large number of people can have access to it.
“The new WHO recommendations offer hope to hundreds of thousands of MDR-TB patients who can now benefit from a test that quickly identifies eligibility for the shorter regimen, and then complete treatment in half the time and at nearly half the cost,” Raviglione said in a statement.
MDR-TB stands for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis caused by TB bacteria that are resistant to isoniazid and rifampicin, two of the most effective drugs to treat the disease, and perhaps others too.
The latest data obtained by the WHO, in 2014, reveals that five percent of TB cases worldwide have a multidrug-resistant disease, which means that there are 480,000 people affected and 19,000 deaths per year.
Fifty percent of patients fail to get better with the current treatment plans for MDR-TB, which can take up to two years. Health experts attribute this rate to the fact that many patients give up on the long regime because the powerful and expensive medicines have several side-effects and they can just not stick with the treatment for such a long time.
The new treatment plan carries severe risks for patients with complicated MDR-TB
Raviglione noted that the WHO does not recommend the shorter treatment to patients whose MDR-TB is resistant to the most important drugs, fluoroquinolones, and injectable, according to the report by the Huffington Post. By following the new regime, these patients could develop extensively drug-resistant TB or XDR-TB.
The WHO recommends a novel and quick commercial molecular diagnostic test called MTBDRsl for use in national TB reference laboratories in order to reduce the risks and determine which patients can benefit from the shorter treatment plan. Current tests deliver results in three months, but this one allows results to be available in 24-48 hours.
The health agency’s latest recommendations are based on results from operational research trials led by the International Union Against TB and Lung Disease (The Union). Financial support came from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and Medicins Sans Frontières (MSF), according to the Huffington Post.
The new treatment plan and the MTBDRsl test will help patients who often face high costs in order to have access to diagnosis and treatment. However, it will take some time until these new recommendations can be fully implemented. WHO and USAID are focusing their efforts on working with funding and technical partners to make sure the resources and support needed can make the new recommendations possible in developing countries.
Source: Huffington Post