New tuberculosis treatment may cut down time

Photo courtesy of Citizen News Service | Researchers have come up with a new type of treatment for drug-resistant tuberculosis that could shorten the treatment period from around two years to only nine months, if it is as successful as it appears to be.

A nine-month treatment for bacteria-resistant tuberculosis may prove equally effective as current treatments that take up to two years, according to the results of the first stage of a study presented at the 48th Union Conference on Lung Health this past week.

The study, formally known as the Evaluation of a Standardised Treatment Regimen of Anti-tuberculosis Drugs for Patients with Multidrug-resistant Tuberculosis (STREAM), attempts to replicate findings from a study conducted by the Damien Foundation, an organization based in Bangladesh.

The Damien Foundation’s study, which took place from 2005-2011, tested the nine-month treatment method in 515 patients and achieved an 87.9 percent success rate. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) raised questions as to whether or not the study followed certain guidelines and did not adopt the findings at the time. One of the main goals of the STREAM study, then, was to corroborate the results of the Damien Foundation.

According to the International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (IUATLD), the first phase of the STREAM study examined 424 patients from Vietnam, Mongolia, South Africa and Ethiopia. Researchers then compared the success rates of the nine-month treatment regimen with those of the WHO-recommended 20-24-month treatment method. The former resulted in positive outcomes in about 78 percent of cases, compared to almost 81 percent for the latter.

The findings of the study suggest closeness in efficacy of both treatments, but the IUATLD warned against equating the two until the study is complete.

Mackenzie Turner, a first-year biology major, offered her thoughts on the potential progress to which this study could lead.

“I think that it’s an incredible breakthrough and that the researchers have potentially created a pathway to discovering other medicines that cure diseases more prominent today, because I think that they are all interconnected,” Turner said.

Dr. David Gerberry, a professor in the mathematics department, agreed with Turner that the study could prove groundbreaking.

“If this trial is successful, it will be a huge step forward in treating multidrug-resistant tuberculosis,” Gerberry said.

“It is an incredibly difficult endeavor for this to be accomplished in a short time scale. Not only will this be important for people with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis but also for wild-type tuberculosis patients, as the success of the STREAM trials will alleviate the fear of treating drug-resistant tuberculosis.”

Gerberry also commented on the potential for instability in countries where resources are lacking. This concern is one shared by the IUATLD, and one of the hopes of the study is that by establishing an effective nine-month treatment method, the burden on patients and countries plagued by tuberculosis will lessen.

“People could go on antibiotics, and something can happen that breaks the supply chain, causing people to go off antibiotics and get a lot of drug resistance as a result,” Gerberry said. “So, it can be used as an argument of not treating TB in the first place. But if there are viable, effective treatment protocols for multidrug-use TB, then that’s one less concern you have to deal with.”

Currently, follow-up studies for Stage 1 are being conducted, and those results will be released 2018.

By: Hyehyun Hwang ~Staff Writer~ and Ellen Siefke ~Managing Editor~