News / Africa

Tough TB Responds to Drug Treatment

A young patient with potentially fatal MDR TB in isolation in a hospital in South Africa (Photo: D.Taylor)
A young patient with potentially fatal MDR TB in isolation in a hospital in South Africa (Photo: D.Taylor)

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
An antibiotic used to treat severe infections shows promise against a very resistant and deadly form of tuberculosis. XDR-TB is resistant to at least four of the drugs used most often against the disease.


Extensively drug resistant tuberculosis – or XDR-TB – is still considered rare, although cases have been reported in nearly 80 countries. Health officials believe the number of XDR-TB cases is underreported because there’s no specific test for it.

It can be cured, but the odds against that happening are often quite high. It can kill quickly, especially if a person is co-infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Dr. Ray Chen, a staff clinician at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says XDR-TB is the next step after MDR-TB, or multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, which is a lot more common.

“That’s been a known problem for many years, primarily as a result of people who don’t take their drugs well. And then the tuberculosis bug slowly develops resistance to the drugs that are used,” he said.

MDR-TB is resistant to two of the top line drugs used for standard tuberculosis therapy. When the disease becomes resistant to two additional first-line drugs, it’s upgraded to XDR-TB.

“It came to world attention in 2006 in a study in South Africa where a number of patients were found to have this extensive resistance to tuberculosis drugs, and they had a very high mortality rate. And so it became recognized as a major problem for tuberculosis,” he said.

In fact, the mortality rate was as high at 90 percent in patients also infected with HIV.

Standard TB treatment can take up to six months. MDR-TB treatment can last between 18 and 24 months.

So researchers knew that more drugs were needed to tackle the various forms of TB.  They had heard of some informal studies using the drug linezolid on TB patients with some success. But there was no formal study.

Linezolid is a drug that’s already on the market and it’s approved for the use of resistant bacteria, which we call gram-positive bacteria that don’t respond to typical antibiotics.

To find out, researchers tested linezolid on 41 patients with XDR-TB. The patients already had been treated for six months with the best TB drugs available, but failed to respond. Chen said linezolid was added to their regimen.

“We found that adding the linezolid had a significant effect and that most of the patients converted their sputum from showing tuberculosis to not having tuberculosis in the sputum by six months. About 87 percent of the patients became negative for tuberculosis within six months. So it showed a very good response,” he said.

That’s the good news. The bad news is many of the patients suffered severe side effects. These include nerve problems with hands and feet going numb. There were also eye problems and abnormalities with red and white blood cells. Use of the drug was stopped before any of the patients suffered permanent damage.

As a result, Chen said more studies are needed to determine whether it can safely be used on a large-scale in combination with other drugs. He also says new, potent antibiotics will be coming on the market and these may be tested on TB, as well.

You May Like

Video Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

Iraqi Kurdish Leader: Protect Syrian City

Islamic State fighters are besieging Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, after seizing at least 21 surrounding villages in a major assault against city on Syria's northern border with Turkey More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid