Need for Speed: Faster-acting tuberculosis drugs now in testing would limit deaths

11:41am, August 9, 2006

Drugs that would take only 2 months to cure tuberculosis instead of the usual 6 months could prevent millions of TB infections and deaths, a new analysis finds.

"It's hard to get people to finish a 6-month course, since a lot of patients start to feel better after a few months," says Joshua A. Salomon, a public health analyst at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

Patients who don't finish the standard treatment fail to wipe out Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the microbe that causes TB. They typically survive but are prone to relapses and can remain intermittently contagious, Salomon says.

Scientists are now testing two promising new drugs—diarylquinoline TMC207 and a compound in the nitroimidazopyran family called PA-824. Tests in animals and lab dishes against M. tuberculosis indicate that drug therapy with these compounds might require only 2 to 4 months. Both candidate drugs are in early stages of testing in people.

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