Game-changing advances announced for TB treatment

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TB drug treatment in South Sudan. Photo: UNDP South Sudan/Brian Sokol

Significant advances in the diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis have been announced by UN health experts.

The new World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations promise quicker detection of TB and better recovery rates than current methods for those with the more resistant form of the disease.

Every year, TB kills 1.5 million per year, and those with the multidrug-resistant form of the disease number around 500,000 people.

Here's Daniel Johnson in Geneva.

The World Health Organization says its two new recommendations which cover testing and treatment are a "critical step forward" in helping those with multidrug-resistant TB.

Known also as MDR-TB, multidrug-resistant tuberculosis resists the usual medication that's given to sufferers.

Here's Dr Mario Raviglione, director of WHO's Global TB programme: "I think that this faster diagnosis and shorter treatment really can accelerate now the response that we must have worldwide to MDR-TB which again remains a crisis."

For the estimated 480,000 multidrug-resistant TB sufferers worldwide, only one in five are being properly treated.

Currently, testing to find out if sufferers have MDR-TB takes three months or longer.

Under a new diagnostic procedure, however, results come in just 24 to 48 hours, meaning that more patients can be given a suitable treatment much more quickly.

The second major change announced by WHO involves a shorter, cheaper course of treatment that can be done in nine to 12 months – half the time of conventional drugs.

The hope is that faster diagnosis and shorter treatment times will produce savings that can be reinvested to enable more patients to be tested for multidrug-resistant TB worldwide.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration: 1'17"

 

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