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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 February 2007, 00:43 GMT
Hope for speedier TB treatment
TB bacterium
The trial will see if a new drug combination is effective against TB
A four-year study is set to test if treatment for tuberculosis can be speeded up.

Current treatment takes six months, which can be problematic in developing countries.

The study, run by doctors from London's St George's Medical School, will test a combination of two antibiotics on 1,200 patients in four African countries.

A Zimbabwean doctor involved in the study said shorter treatment increased the chance people would be cured.

About a third of the world's population is infected with the TB bug, with 8.9 million developing TB each year.

In 2004, the respiratory disease caused 1.7 million deaths worldwide.

Adhering to a course of TB treatment can be difficult. Many patients in developing countries abandon their medication halfway through because of the long trek to a treatment centre or when they first begin to feel better.

New drugs 'costly'

Combining the two antibiotics, rifapentine and moxifloxacin, has been shown to be an effective TB treatment in animal studies.

Both drugs are already used, but separately.

If treatment becomes shorter there is a better chance of them finishing their medication and being cured
Dr Stanley Mungofa, the Head of the Harare City Health Department, Zimbabwe

This trial, which will start in July, is aimed to both test the effectiveness and safety of the drug combination and to see if a four-month course of treatment, with doses given twice a week, is as good as a six-month course in which treatment is given just once a week.

It will take place in Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Dr Amina Jindani of St George's Hospital, who is co-ordinating the study, said: "The development of a new anti-tuberculosis drug could take 15 years and the cost estimated by the Stop TB partnership is almost $5 billion.

"By testing a new combination of drugs we already use we can cut that development time by 10 years at a far lower cost."

Dr Stanley Mungofa, the Head of the Harare City Health Department, Harare, Zimbabwe, who will be involved in the trial, said: "TB treatment just like treatment for chronic diseases tends to be difficult for both the patient and the health system given the fact that when patients feel better they confuse better for cure and abandon their treatment.

"If treatment becomes shorter there is a better chance of them finishing their medication and being cured."

The study is being funded by the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership and the Wellcome Trust.




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