The problem with TB
What is tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis (TB) is an airborne infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It usually affects the lungs causing coughing, fever and weight loss.
Although the disease has long been both preventable and curable, someone still dies from tuberculosis somewhere in the world every twenty seconds. TB can be cured but six months or more of combinations of antibiotics is needed and many patients interrupt or stop their drugs before the bacteria have been completely eradicated from the body.
In some cases, the bacteria may develop multi-drug resistance (MDR) which can only be treated for 18 months or more with older, less effective drugs and with much slimmer chances of success.
Though effective treatment became possible more than sixty years ago, from a public health point of view we are still very far from winning the battle against TB.
The problem with TB treatment
Today’s TB treatment was developed four decades ago. Only in recent years have renewed scientific efforts resulted in new drugs which might shorten treatment but identifying the right combinations of old and new drugs to take forward into large, lengthy and expensive clinical trials remains a problem.
The full range of preclinical models of TB has not been comprehensively explored and the development pathway remains incompletely integrated.Since new candidates are currently developed by changing one drug in the regimen at a time, finding a completely new combination treatment could take more than twenty years. TB sufferers and those developing the drugs to treat them desperately need a new approach.