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New treatment for resistant TB

2nd March 2009

The most deadly variety of tuberculosis, extreme drug-resistant, or XDR-TB, is susceptible to two existing drugs, when they are used in combination, according to a new study.

tbpatient

The cocktail combines GlaxoSmithKline's Augmentin, which consists of their own clavulanate mixed with amoxicillin, with meropenem, sold by AstraZeneca.

The finding showed that the drugs eliminated labratory-grown strains of both normal and drug-resistant TB.

Among those varieties of tuberculosis were 13 varieties of XDR-TB, taken from the bodies of patients.

Drug-resistant varieties of tuberculosis usually offer scant options for treatment.

The news comes in the wake of health reports which detail increasing numbers of drug-resistant TB cases around the world.

Such varieties of tuberculosis often involve high death rates and are very expensive to treat.

One clinical trial using the combination of drugs is planned for South Korea later this year, and another will take place in South Africa.

The trial in South Korea will involve some 100 XDR-TB patients.

John Blanchard said that news of the new treatment regime was exciting, since there are increasing numbers of cases of TB that are drug resistant, both multi-drug resistant (MDR-TB) and the extensively drug resistant kind.

He said there had been no new drugs introduced in the chemotherapy of TB in 40 years, and that this would be the first new class of compounds that could potentially be approved for the treatment of TB.

A patent application for the new treatment has been filed by the The Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University in New York.

Meropenem, also called MERREM IV, is an intravenously administered antibiotic, used against a host of infectious bacteria.

Augmentin, because it contains amoxicillin, is also an antibiotic.

Clavulinate alone is not, though it defends against an enzyme that serves as a shield against meropenem.

According to the UN World Health Organisation (WHO), there are nine million new TB cases annually.

Based on data gathered a couple of years ago, the WHO reports that roughly 490,000 of these are MDR-TB and 40,000 XDR-TB.

Experts see tremendous potential in this new combination of drugs for treating not only XDR-TB cases, but also routine TB cases.

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