Easier TB treatment ‘one step closer’

22 February 2010

Researchers at South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) are one step closer to providing tuberculosis (TB) sufferers with a once-a-week medicinal regime rather than their current daily doses.

A pre-clinical efficacy study has demonstrated that TB drugs given once a week over a four-week period are just as effective as daily doses of the drug over the same period when the CSIR team’s drug delivery technology is used.

In a statement last week, the CSIR said the biggest problem with the current TB therapy regimen was that the drugs had to be taken once a day for six to nine months in order to be effective.

Patient challenges

In terms of the World Health Organization’s Directly Observed Treatment short-course (DOTs) programme, the drugs also needed to be taken in the presence of a healthcare practitioner.

Due to logistics, cost and other considerations, this was problematic for South African patients, especially in rural areas, said Dr Boitumelo Semete, senior researcher in the drug delivery programme at the CSIR. The drugs also had a number of nasty side-effects, discouraging many patients from completing their treatment course and significantly reducing their chances of recovery.

Nano-particles

In order to improve patient compliance with TB treatment, Semete said, the CSIR team was developing a method to ensure that the antibiotic drugs were released and taken up in the affected cells over a longer period of time, using nano-particles.

This meant that patients would only have to take the drugs once a week instead of daily, with fewer associated side-effects. It was also hoped that, with more effective delivery and improved bio-availability of the drug, the total treatment period would be significantly reduced.

The pre-clinical efficacy study just completed was strong confirmation of the potential of the CSIR’s drug delivery technology, Semete said.

“While there is still a long road ahead before we can take our technology to human clinical trials and eventually make the treatment available to patients, we have just reached a significant milestone along the way.”

SAinfo reporter

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