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Hopes raised by TB drug cocktail

New combination could kill 99% of patients’ bacteria in two weeks

Louise Prime

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

A new combination of drugs could kill nearly all patients’ tuberculosis bacteria within two weeks, suggest early trials. Researchers say in The Lancet that their results could lead to development of better treatments for patients with drug-resistant as well as drug-susceptible forms of TB.

The combination medicine, known as PaMZ, comprises the new TB drug candidate PA-284, the antibiotic moxifloxacin and the established TB drug pyrazinamide. It was tested in a phase II trial in South Africa, in 85 patients with TB who were assessed over two weeks.

The study authors found that PaMZ was at least as effective as current standard treatments for drug-susceptible TB – but with the important additional advantage that it also has the potential to treat patients with drug-resistant forms. They say that PaMZ could kill more than 99% of patients’ TB bacteria within two weeks.

Also, unlike many existing TB drug regimens, PaMZ could safely be used by HIV-positive patients taking antiretroviral medicines.

They said: “Treating drug-sensitive and drug-resistant TB with the same regimen can simplify the delivery of TB treatment worldwide. The results of this study give healthcare providers on the front lines of the TB epidemic hopes for better, faster tools needed to stop this disease.”

The author of an accompanying comment warns that although PaMZ shows promise in treating drug-resistant forms of TB, and TB in people who also have HIV, healthcare providers must learn from past mistakes and exercise caution in using this and other new drug regimens.

He writes: “The international community has the chance to prevent the misuse of new drugs and regimens. To protect the investment in these drugs, the rational use of antibiotics within strengthened health systems is necessary to avoid the real risk of losing these new agents in a time shorter than that needed to develop them.”

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