Tuberculosis (TB) is a global health threat, with an estimated 10 million people diagnosed with the disease in 2020 alone. TB is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis and is spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Despite being treatable and curable, TB remains a significant cause of death worldwide. However, recent innovations in TB treatment and prevention offer hope for improving TB outcomes and accelerating progress towards TB elimination.
New Drugs and Treatment Approaches
One of the most significant innovations in TB treatment is the development of new drugs and treatment regimens. Bedaquiline, a new drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2012, has been shown to be effective against multi-drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB), a form of TB that is resistant to two of the most potent TB drugs. Other drugs in development include pretomanid and delamanid, which have shown promise in treating drug-resistant TB.
Another promising innovation in TB treatment is the use of shorter and more effective treatment regimens. For example, a new treatment regimen called 3HP (3 months of weekly isoniazid and rifapentine) has been shown to be just as effective as the standard 6-month treatment for latent TB infection but requires only half the time to complete.
Vaccines and Preventive Therapy
Vaccines and preventive therapy are critical tools in the fight against TB. BCG, the only TB vaccine currently available, has limited effectiveness in preventing TB, particularly in adults. However, several new TB vaccines are in development, including the M72/AS01E vaccine, which has shown promising results in clinical trials.
Preventive therapy, such as isoniazid preventive therapy (IPT), can also be effective in preventing TB. IPT involves taking a course of isoniazid for several months to prevent TB infection from progressing to active disease. Innovations in preventive therapy include the use of a combination of drugs, such as rifapentine and isoniazid, which can reduce the duration of preventive therapy.
Early and accurate diagnosis of TB is critical for effective treatment and prevention. Innovations in diagnostic tools include the use of geneXpert, a rapid molecular test that can detect TB and drug resistance in just a few hours. Other innovations include the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve TB diagnosis and the development of new biomarkers to aid in TB detection.
Innovations in TB treatment and prevention offer hope for improving TB outcomes and accelerating progress towards TB elimination. New drugs and treatment regimens, vaccines, preventive therapy, and diagnostic tools are all critical tools in the fight against TB. To achieve TB elimination, continued investment in research and development of these innovative approaches is necessary.