News / Health

    New Drug Combo Shows Promise against TB, HIV Co-Infections

    A doctor (left) and a nurse discuss the condition of a patient infected with both HIV and tuberculosis in a hospital in South Africa  A doctor (left) and a nurse discuss the condition of a patient infected with both HIV and tuberculosis in a hospital in South Africa
    x
    A doctor (left) and a nurse discuss the condition of a patient infected with both HIV and tuberculosis in a hospital in South Africa
    A doctor (left) and a nurse discuss the condition of a patient infected with both HIV and tuberculosis in a hospital in South Africa
    Jessica Berman
    WASHINGTON — There may be a powerful new weapon in the fight against tuberculosis, a bacterial respiratory disease that kills an estimated 1.4 million people around the world each year.  Early results of a clinical trial show a novel triple-drug combination destroys nearly 100 percent of the TB bacteria in infected patients -- within two weeks.   While full treatment would take longer, the regimen promises to cut in half the duration of TB therapy for drug-resistant cases of the disease. And it could be a life-saver for hard-to-treat HIV-positive individuals who are co-infected with TB.

    An estimated 25 percent of people infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, die of tuberculosis because they cannot withstand the nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite that can be the debilitating side effects of the rigorous antibiotic regimen now used to treat TB. 

    The standard treatment now involves four doses of antibiotic drugs each day for as long as six months.  If an HIV-positive patient is infected with multi-drug resistant TB, they face two to three years of treatment, including a daily injection for six months.  

    The new therapy consists of three drugs:  an experimental compound called PA-824, an established antibiotic called moxifloxacin and pyrazinamide, the most powerful anti-TB drug now in use.

    Daniel Everitt, co-researcher on the drug trial, is senior medical officer with the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development, which funded the study.  He says HIV-positive patients co-infected with tuberculosis currently must take up to twelve pills per day -- if they can even tolerate the TB treatment.

    “It’s a huge amount of drugs with all their interactions and side effects.  So...we hope this will be a four-month regimen of just three drugs, which will be a major step forward for patients with HIV who have to take so many drugs currently,” Everitt said.

    Everitt says, ideally, the three-drug anti-TB cocktail could be combined into a single pill.
    The clinical trial involved a group of 85 TB-infected patients in Cape Town, South Africa.  The cocktail's effectiveness was measured by comparing the amount of tuberculosis bacteria in the sputum of patients on the experimental combination therapy and those on a variety of other standard therapies within the first two weeks of the trial.

    Researchers found the drug cocktail killed more than 99 percent of TB bacteria in the triple-combination group.

    Because all but one of the three compounds is new in the treatment of TB, there is no drug resistance -- yet -- to the triple-combination therapy.  Experts say that it could be used to treat regular TB as well as drug-resistant cases, in a fraction of current treatment times.

    Everitt says the drug cocktail could have important cost-saving benefits as well: “For patients with drug-resistant TB, we’re expecting the cost of that to come down about ten-fold, to be one-tenth of the current drug-resistant treatment regimen -- which is very expensive because it (involves) so many medicines and it has to be taken for 18 to 24 months,” Everitt said.

    Researchers caution the cocktail must still go through additional, larger trials before it becomes available as a treatment for TB.

    An article on the triple-drug combination treatment for tuberculosis is published in The Lancet.  The results of the drug trial were presented at the International AIDS Conference in Washington DC.

    You May Like

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    How Diversity Has Changed America

    Over the past four decades, the level of diversity in the United States has increased most in these four states

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.