Promising New Tuberculosis Treatment 99 Percent Effective

on July 24, 2012 8:36 AM EDT

TB
A new treatment for tuberculosis appears to be effective at killing the disease, according to a new study, published in the journal the Lancet. (Photo: Creative Commons)

A new treatment for tuberculosis appears to be effective at killing the disease, according to a new study, published in the journal the Lancet.

Tuberculosis is a treatable lung infection that causes chest pain, coughing, weight loss, fever and night sweats, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If left untreated, half of people infected with TB die.

The new treatment, a combination of three drugs, effectively killed more than 99 percent of TB bacteria in two weeks. In a small trial of 85 people, the treatment had the same efficacy against a deadly strain of antibiotic-resistant TB that is sweeping across parts of Africa and Asia. 

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"The results look strongly promising from this early trial," Mario Raviglione, a TB expert at the World Health Organization, told BBC News. "We could shorten drug regimens substantially for everyone, regardless of whether the form of TB is sensitive or multi-drug resistant."

Of the three drugs that make up the treatment, one is completely new and another is unlicensed.

Researchers are planning larger trials to test the efficacy further.

TB is typically treated with a combination of antibiotics over six months. If treatment is stopped, the bacteria can surge and mutate into a strain that cannot be killed by conventional drugs, which makes the disease even deadlier.

"The results of this study give healthcare providers on the front-lines of the TB epidemic hope for better, faster tools needed to stop this disease," Andreas Diacon, study author and researcher from Stellenbosch University in South Africa, told BBC News.

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