Novel TB drug boosts recovery

A new combination of antibiotic drugs could be a potent treatment for TB, say US researchers.

Adding moxifloxacin to a standard combination of antibiotics could shorten recovery time from six months to four.

Researchers studied 170 men and women in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with active TB.

The new combination increased the number of patients who had cleared active infections from their lungs after two months by 17 per cent, raising cure rates from 68 per cent to 85 per cent.

All participants were given a standard combination of three antibiotics - isoniazid, rifampicin, and pyrazinamide. They were randomly assigned a fourth pill that was either moxifloxacin or ethambutol.

After only two weeks of therapy, 21 per cent of the sputum samples from the moxifloxacin group were negative and clear of visible disease. In the ethambutol group, it was just 3 per cent. After four weeks, the gap widened to 51 per cent and 29 per cent respectively.

Lead researcher Richard Chaisson, professor of medicine at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said shorter treatment time would cut down transmission of disease to others and boost drug compliance.

It could also potentially reduce the risk that drug-resistant strains will develop, he said.

Chaisson also said that if moxifloxacin replaces one of the current key drugs in conventional TB therapy, the treatment could be less costly overall.

The findings were presented this week at the 47th Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in Chicago, Illinois.

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