Trial in South Africa successful in treating XDR TB

March is Tuberculosis Awareness Month. A trial in South Africa to treat extensive drug-resistant tuberculosis has proven to be successful.

TB trial
Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by the bacterium, mycobacterium tuberculosis, and most often affects the lungs. It is curable and preventable. (Image: Pixabay)

Brand South Africa reporter

A trial treatment in Johannesburg and Cape Town for those who have become resistant to tuberculosis (TB) drugs has been successful, astonishingly so. This is according to Francesca Conradie of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, an investigator on the programme.

The trial, called Nix TB included patients in South Africa who have extensive drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR TB), noted the journal, Science. A combination of three relatively new drugs was administered to the patients: bedaquiline, pretomanid and linezolid (BpaL). The majority of the patients recovered.

Conradie reported on the findings at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle, Washington on 15 February 2017.

“I didn’t in my wildest dreams expect the results to be this successful,” she said.

Conradie told Huffington Post South Africa the results were a game changer.

“I thought, if we save 30% of the patients, we’d have done well. I have been completely flabbergasted.
“We had a young man who had had XDR TB for six or seven years and he came out of our site in tears.

“He got XDR TB when he was 17, and he was cured on the Nix regiment. Every patient of ours has a story like that.”

Stats and results

Since April 2015, 61 patients have been enrolled in the trial:

  • 49% of participants are HIV positive,
  • 79% have XDR TB and 21% have multi-drug resistant TB (MDR TB)
  • 34 have successfully completed six months of therapy

According to the World Health Organization, TB is one of the top 10 causes of death in the world. “In 2015, 10.4-million people fell ill with TB and 1.8-million died from the disease (including 0.4 million among people with HIV),” the WHO website reads. “Over 95% of TB deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.”

Six countries – India, Indonesia, China, Nigeria, Pakistan and South Africa – account for 60% of the total global TB population.

The organisation said 294 603 cases were notified in South Africa in 2015.

World TB Day falls later this month on 24 March.

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