WHO Advises Faster, Cheaper Treatment for Tuberculosis
The World Health Organization is proposing a new way to fight the disease multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.
WHO officials say the new treatment costs less and is easier to use than other treatments. They also say it could save the lives of tens of thousands of people.
Tuberculosis (TB) mainly affects the lungs. The bacteria that cause the disease can develop resistance to the two most powerful anti-TB drugs. This has led to the development and spread of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.
Multi-drug resistant TB infects nearly 500,000 men, women and children every year. Each year, about 190,000 of those who develop this kind of the disease die.
Mario Raviglione is the director of the WHO's global tuberculosis program. He said the new test and treatment program will help people who have multi-drug resistant TB.WHO officials say the death rate is high because fewer than 20 percent of the patients are getting the right form of treatment.
"These two new recommendations from WHO enable MDR-TB patients one, to benefit from a test that will quickly identify who iseligible for the shorter MDR-TB treatment regimen; and two, complete treatment in half the time at nearly half the cost of today."
The new test can show in just 24 to 48 hours whether someone has the disease. The test that is used now may not give results for three months or longer.
The shorter treatment program costs less than $1,000 per patient and can be completed in nine to 12 months. Current treatment programs for people with multi-drug resistant TB cost $1,500 to $3,000 and take between 18 and 24 months to complete.
Reviglione said that worldwide about 50 percent of those receiving the longer and more-costly treatment are cured. He said those who are not cured either die or can live with the disease for years. He says about one-fourth of patients stop the treatment before it is completed.
"They abandon treatment because the treatment lasts, as you probably know, up to two years, with drugs that we all know are fairly toxic in a way. They have side effects and they are not really liked by patients who have to take them."
WHO officials said there are about 400 laboratories in developing countries that can use the new test and treatment program. So, officials believe, most people suffering from MDR-TB will be able to be treated using the faster, less-costly method.
I'm Marsha James.