KUHeS seeks to establish shorter TB treatment regimen

Authorities at Kamuzu University of Health Science (KUHeS) says preparations are at an advanced stage for the commencement of two drug trials which seeks to establish new regimens that are going to shorten the six-month treatment for Tuberculosis.

Scientists at Kamuzu University of Health Sciences (KUHeS) say the institution will soon begin two drug trials which seek to establish shorter Tuberculosis treatment regimens so as to lessen patients’ burden of being on Tuberculosis treatment for six months and over.

Dr Hussein Twabi who is Medical Doctor and Infectious Disease Epidemiologist and a Research Fellow at Helse-Nord Tuberculosis Initiative (HNTI), a project at KUHeS, told Malawi24 that some people find the six-month treatment so daunting.

Dr Twabi said some TB patients may not adhere to the full six-month treatment which may end up not getting the optimal treatment effect in the end, resulting in either the TB not being treated adequately or developing resistant bacteria which also result in a complication in terms of management and the direction thereof.

“Long treatment also means that the patient is exposed to these drugs for a long time and as all drugs, they do have side effects and it might be uncomfortable for them.

“So, the other thing that a long treatment arrangement does bring forth as well is the fact that you have to basically support the patient throughout the entire six months of treatment, meaning that there is a higher cost on the health facility, but also per patient costs because of the long treatment duration,” explained Dr Twabi.

The Infectious Disease Scientist then indicated that KUHeS will soon begin two drug trials which are being supported by the Pan-African Consortium for the Evaluation of Antituberculosis Antibiotics (PanACEA) with funding from European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP).

He said the first one is a phase two trial which targets population group trial, and the second one being phase three trial, which is a trial of drugs that have already been tested in target population and earlier phases and it has shown enough efficacy to warrant a larger trial in a more pragmatic setting.

The Infectious Disease Epidemiologist said the institution is currently waiting for some approval documents from the Poisons and Medicine Regulation Authority (PMRA), but indicated that the phase two trial, already has full approval and is due to begin recruitment and randomization with a month or so.

Dr Twabi further emphasized that shorter duration TB treatment regimen would see more patients adhering to it and more likely to complete treatment which he said may contribute more towards the TB elimination agenda.

“A shorter duration regimen would mean that participants or patients are less burdened with the treatment for tuberculosis in itself. The other thing is that these regimens that we’re actually testing have some newer molecules within them, meaning that they are more efficacious in reducing the bacterial load and killing the bacteria than our standard treatment.

“So, hopefully we will also see less relapse cases, less resistance developing and also more completion and cure rates than we have been seeing before. With that, obviously, as we go along, the more people we cure the more we reduce the burden of disease and also reduce the risk of transmission within the community, thus feeding towards the elimination of TB agenda,” he added.

During a two-day TB Research Network Dissemination Conference held from 24th October to 25th October, 2023 in Blantyre, it was disclosed that in Malawi, estimated TB incidences have declined from over 200 cases per 100,000 population in 2019 to around 115 cases per 100,000 this year.