New test and regimen to speed MDR-TB diagnosis and shorten treatment

Two innovations, described as ‘awesome’ by the Stop TB Partnership, promise to speed up diagnosis and shorten treatment for multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB).

Current treatment regimes for MDR-TB are longer and come with a greater risk of side effects than treatment for drug-sensitive TB. This makes it more difficult for people to stick with treatment, which has serious consequences for their own health and increases the risk that they will pass TB on to others.

A new rapid diagnostic test provides results in just 24-48 hours rather than the three plus months that are currently required. This means that MDR-TB patients can be diagnosed and started on appropriate treatment more quickly.

Meanwhile, a new treatment regimen promises to improve health outcomes, and reduce TB transmission and deaths, by shortening the length of time that someone is on treatment from up to 2 years to as little as nine months.

Dr Lucica Ditiu, Executive Director of the Stop TB Partnership , comments: “This is an awesome moment and an opportunity to take up a shorter MDR regimen and a new rapid diagnostic test. But I am afraid to celebrate because too often we are shy, reluctant, and slow in embracing and rolling out new tools and approaches. We now need to be daring, innovative risk-takers. We need to ensure that national policies and algorithms in place are aligned with the science. However, if we want to end TB, we need to seriously fund research for a point of care diagnosis, much shorter and affordable treatment, and a new vaccine.”

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