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Experimental Drug Works in Treating Resistant Tuberculosis

June 5th, 2009

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According to the World Health Organization, about 1.8 million people die worldwide each year from tuberculosis (TB) and a third of the world’s population are infected. In addition, of the 9 million new TB cases annually, about 490,000 are multiple-drug resistant TB or MDR-TB and about 40,000 are extensively drug resistant or XDR-TB. However, according to new research, an experimental treatment could help in treating resistant TB, delivering results that are up to five times more effective than current methods.

According to the study, funded by Johnson & Johnson, drug TMC207, if added to a standard cocktail of five other TB medicines, cleared traces of the tuberculosis bacteria in the sputum of 48 percent of the volunteers after eight weeks. Only 9 percent of patients given the five older drugs alone showed that type of improvement. TMC207 is now being billed as the first new tuberculosis drug in 40 years. It works by interfering with the enzyme ATP synthase, which the bacteria need to store energy.

“The development of TMC207 represents an important advance in the chemotherapy of tuberculosis,” said Clifton Barry of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland in a recent commentary about the new drug. It represents “a new class of drugs that increase the therapeutic options for patients who have multidrug-resistant or extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis, for whom treatment options are often sparse, largely ineffective, and often highly toxic.”

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