New drug regimen proves effective against highly resistant TB strain

A clinical trial has had a 90 percent success rate in treating the deadliest strain of tuberculosis, which is resistant to the four types of antibiotics typically used to fight the disease, according to The New York Times.

The trial, called Nix-TB, has only enrolled 109 patients. But its success is highly encouraging for a lethal disease with no previously known cure. The Food and Drug Administration approved the last of Nix-TB's three drugs, pretomanid, on Aug. 14, as long as the drug is used with the two previously approved ones, bedaquiline and linezolid.

The TB strain, known as extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis or XDR-TB, killed 52 of 53 people infected when it was first identified in a 2006 outbreak in South Africa. There have been about 30,000 confirmed cases of the disease in over 100 countries, and experts believe three-quarters of patients die before receiving a diagnosis. Of those who receive typical treatment, only 34 percent survive. 

The new regimen requires only five pills a day for six months and has "manageable" side effects, according to physicians running the trial. In contrast, typical treatment in South Africa requires patients to take up to 40 pills per day for up to two years. Injections used to treat the disease in other countries have side effects including deafness and kidney failure.

The World Health Organization is expected to adopt the FDA's approval of the drugs soon, meaning the new treatment could be used worldwide.

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