Christo van Niekerk
Picture: Colleen Dardagan
Christo van Niekerk Picture: Colleen Dardagan

New TB drug will work with ARVs

By Colleen Dardagan Time of article published Jun 18, 2012

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International scientists have revealed a new tuberculosis regimen compatible with HIV/Aids medication which is set to reduce the length of treatment of the disease to just four months.

In a side session of the Third Bi-annual TB Conference held at Durban’s International Convention Centre, Christo van Niekerk, the senior director of clinical development for the TB Alliance, a non-governmental organisation involved in the development of new faster-acting anti-TB drugs, discussed a promising combination of drugs – PA824 with moxifloxacin and pyrazinimide – with The Mercury.

He said the new drugs would also limit some of the side-effects usually associated with TB treatment, such as liver damage, nausea, general toxicity in the system and, in the case of some patients with multidrug-resistant TB, irreparable deafness.

With more than 60 percent of all TB patients in this country also infected with Aids, Van Niekerk said the new drug combination was now compatible with antiretrovirals.

It was also affordable and more acceptable to the communities most burdened by these diseases, as it would be dispensed in the form of easy-to-take tablets.

“Certain (current) TB drugs act on liver enzymes. They increase the enzymes, which then break down the antiretrovirals used to treat HIV/Aids. Our aim was to develop a combination of drugs to act against both drug-susceptible and drug-resistant strains of TB while being compatible with ARVs.

“PA824 is a novel combination of drugs because they’ve never been used together or for TB before.

“They attack the TB bug in a different way, which makes them particularly promising for dramatically shortening the treatment of drug-resistant strains,” he said.

Currently TB patients take medication for six months, with those diagnosed with the multidrug-resistant strain taking them for up to 18 months or more.

Patients suspected of having TB are tested once using a sputum test and are then sent away for two weeks before they return to clinics and hospitals for a second test.

Van Niekerk said the third development phase – the first was completed in the US, where mice were used in the development of the drug – was already under way in SA. - The Mercury

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