Researchers at the Uganda Case Western Reserve University-Research Collaboration are exploring the potential of shortening the duration of TB treatment from the current six months or more using a combination of new drugs.
At a Science Media Café organized by the Health Journalists Network (HEJNU), Timothy Muwanguzi, the Clinical Study Coordinator, informed attending journalists about their investigation into two drugs. One drug could potentially reduce the treatment duration to two months, while the other could shorten it to four months. Muwanguzi highlighted that this research initiative stemmed from the observation of many TB sufferers discontinuing treatment before completing their doses.
Muwanguzi emphasized that their analysis revealed a concerning trend: a significant portion of individuals diagnosed with Multi-Drug Resistant TB had previously been treated for drug-sensitive TB but failed to complete their treatment.
Presently, over a thousand Ugandans are grappling with this form of TB, and Muwanguzi believes that introducing newer treatments could significantly reduce the disease’s mortality rate.
Doreen Namataka, a community worker involved in TB screening and care linkage efforts, expressed optimism about the potential impact of these innovations. She stressed that successful implementation could halt the disease’s further spread by ensuring early cures. Namataka underscored the importance of addressing treatment dropout rates, a factor contributing to the slow progress in curbing new TB infections despite longstanding TB prevention advocacy efforts.
The five-year study, initiated at Mulago National Referral Hospital, is enrolling TB patients from hospitals and clinics in Kampala. Similar studies are underway in Tanzania, South Africa, the Philippines, and Georgia to assess the treatment’s efficacy across different populations.
In Uganda, an estimated 91,000 individuals contract TB annually, equating to approximately 240 new cases daily. Moreover, two out of every 100 TB patients have drug-resistant TB, which does not respond to first-line drugs, leading to about 30 TB-related deaths daily.
Notably, over half of TB-related deaths occur among people living with HIV, while approximately 15% of TB patients in Uganda are children under 14 years old.