According to the global body, a more comprehensive TB guideline will be released next month.
It recommended that countries move toward shorter treatment regimens for some people with drug-resistant tuberculosis, including people co-infected with HIV, children, and people with simple MDR-TB who have not been treated before or and have no known resistance to any of the drugs in the regimen.
The WHO stated that the decision was taken after results from a number of large observation cohort studies using the shortened regimen showed a positive outcome.
Current DR-TB treatments usually run for 24 months and cause significant side effects; shortened regimens, which run as few as 9 months, lessen disruption of patients’ lives and are easier for patients to tolerate and adhere to. MSF began implementation of the shortened DR-TB treatment course in Uzbekistan in 2013 before expanding use of the regimen to Swaziland.
The organisation is also recommending that people with confirmed rifampicin-resistant TB or multidrug-resistant TB be tested for extensively-drug-resistant (XDR) and pre-XDR-TB using rapid molecular tests as the initial test, so that they can be offered treatment that is appropriate for them as soon as possible.
TB care specialist and Medecin Sans Frontieres coordinator of the Nine-Month Short Course Regimen study, Dr. David Lister, said that the international aid organisation was already implementing these treatment guidelines in its clinics in Swaziland and Uzbekistan.
Lister added that MSF was also working with health workers in these countries to develop a response to the WHO recommendation.
“The prospect of two years of TB treatment drives parents to hide their children from treatment, teenagers to abandon their ambitions, adults to decide between providing for their family or getting healthy and the elderly to wish for death. The fear of relentless suffering due to side effects manages to outweigh any hope of cure or returning to a normal life. But when I tell patients that it’s only nine months of treatment, they respond, ‘I can do that.’ he stated.
By: Bukola Adebayo