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MDR-TB, XDR-TB More Widespread Than Previously Believed, Study Shows

In a study published on Wednesday in the Lancet, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that “[a]mong 1,278 patients who were resistant to two or more first-line tuberculosis drugs in Estonia, Latvia, Peru, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, South Korea and Thailand, 43.7 percent showed resistance to at least one second-line drug,” which “suggest[s] the deadly disease may become ‘virtually untreatable,'” according to the study, Bloomberg Businessweek reports (Kitamura/Narayan, 8/29). “In about a fifth of cases, they found resistance to at least one second-line injectable [versus oral] drug,” according to Reuters, which states “[t]his ranged from two percent in the Philippines to 47 percent in Latvia.” Overall, 6.7 percent of patients had extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB), meaning patients are resistant to the first-line drugs isoniazid and rifampicin as well as drugs in the fluoroquinolone antibiotic class and a second-line injectable antibiotic, Reuters adds, noting “[r]ates in South Korea, at 15.2 percent, and Russia at 11.3 percent, were more than twice the WHO’s global estimate of 5.4 percent at that time” (Kelland, 8/30).

Global Fund Board Approves 45 New Two-Year Grants As Part Of Transitional Funding Mechanism

“The Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has approved 45 new two-year grants, from 37 countries, totaling $419.2 million, to fund essential prevention, treatment, and care services provided to the people affected by the three diseases,” according to a Global Fund press release. “Another 11 proposals worth a total of $91.2 million were sent back for revision, and are subject to a further independent technical review before they can be approved,” the press release adds, noting the grant approvals are part of the Transitional Funding Mechanism and “will bridge the financing of essential interventions until the next opportunity to apply for grants” (8/28). According to the U.N. News Centre, the Global Fund “has approved funding of $22.9 billion for more than 1,000 programs in 151 countries, and helped programs provide AIDS treatment for 3.6 million people, anti-tuberculosis treatment for 9.3 million people, and 270 million insecticide-treated nets for the prevention of malaria” (8/28).

GeneXpert TB Test Maker Cepheid Signs Deals With PEPFAR, USAID, Others To Provide Lower-Cost Kits

Diagnostics company Cepheid on Monday signed deals with PEPFAR, USAID, UNITAID, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to immediately reduce the price of its Xpert MTB/RIF test kit for its GeneXpert tuberculosis (TB) diagnostic system in 145 countries, Reuters reports. “The agreements will see the test sold for $9.98, down from its current price of $16.86 per test,” the news service writes, adding, “Cepheid said the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will make an initial payment of $3.5 million to make the test immediately available at the lower price” (Ail, 8/6).

Drug Companies Developing Novel Treatments For MDR-TB

With incentives to find new antibiotics signed into U.S. law last month, “multiple players are vying for the lead in the [multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB)] drug development niche,” Nature Medicine reports. “The fifth reauthorization of the U.S. Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA), signed into law on 9 July, includes a subsection called the Generating Antibiotic Incentives Now (GAIN) Act that aims to spur development of antibiotics for drug-resistant bacteria, including MDR-TB,” the news service writes, noting, “Drug makers that ask for approval of medicines to treat these pathogens will receive priority review, as well as five additional years of market exclusivity and fast-track status.” Currently, MDR-TB treatment “involves a bevy of regular tuberculosis medicines that, in many cases, must be administered for as long as two years or more … [and] don’t always work,” Nature Medicine states, adding, “The hope is that new medicines will shorten treatment times and improve cure rates.” The article discusses several medicines that are in different phases of research (Willyard, 8/6).

Global Fund Releases Funding Recommendations For Transitional Funding Mechanism

“The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria [on Monday] released the funding recommendations of its Technical Review Panel for the Transitional Funding Mechanism,” the Stop TB Partnership reports in an article on its webpage. “Grant proposals for tuberculosis (TB) received 25 percent ($127.4 million) of all the approved funding ($510 million) — a marked increase over the historic average share of 16 percent since the Global Fund was established in 2002,” the article notes, adding, “TB applications were also most successful, with an 86 percent recommendation rate; malaria applications engendered a 79 percent recommendation rate and HIV proposals a 62 percent recommendation rate” (8/21).

U.S. Support Of PEPFAR, Global Fund Helping To Achieve Global AIDS, TB, Malaria Goals

In this post in Huffington Post’s “Impact” blog, Deborah Derrick, president of Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, examines “the success of U.S. efforts to promote better global health through support for [PEPFAR] and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.” She highlights U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent trip to Africa, writing that Clinton’s “encouraging words” at the Reach Out Mbuya health center in Uganda reinforced U.S. commitment to an AIDS-free generation. She notes both PEPFAR and the Global Fund have supported the center and adds that “through hundreds of similar local programs all over the world, the Global Fund provides treatment to 3.6 million people who are HIV-positive.”

Small, Ingestible Sensor Can Track Patient Medication Intake, Activity Levels; Technology To Be Tested For TB Treatment

The FDA last month approved for use a small ingestible sensor that, when embedded into a pill, can help “keep track of whether a patient is taking their medicine on time,” Reuters reports. “The digital feedback technology, devised by Redwood City, California-based Proteus Digital Health Inc., can also prompt patients to take their medicine and even ask them to take a walk if they have been inactive for too long,” the news service writes. “Proteus has a partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention to test the technology in tuberculosis treatment,” Reuters notes, adding, “Pills for anything from the common cold to diabetes or cancer can be embedded.”

Health Workers Feeling Effects Of Staff, Supply Shortages At Clinics In Southwestern Uganda

Health workers with Medical Teams International, a medical non-governmental organization, “say they are overwhelmed” by high demand at five health clinics in two southwestern Ugandan refugee centers, PlusNews reports. The refugees, “many of whom came from conflict-prone areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),” and local residents are in need of HIV and tuberculosis (TB) prevention information, and care and treatment services, according to the news service. “Uganda suffers from a chronic shortage of health workers — less than half of the vacant health positions are filled — but the recent influx of refugees fleeing violence in neighboring DRC has put even more pressure on [the region's] health services,” PlusNews writes. Physicians, who see 30 to 50 patients daily and often work double shifts, say gaps in the supplies of antiretroviral (ARV) and TB drugs poses concern, as does trying to follow-up with patients who may not return for visits, the news service notes (3/29).

Stop TB Partnership, TAG Release Report On Tuberculosis Research Funding

The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports the findings from the second edition of the 2011 Report on Tuberculosis (TB) Research Funding and Trends from 2005-2010, released Thursday by Treatment Action Group (TAG) and the Stop TB Partnership. “TB research and development investment increased 76 percent between 2005 and 2010, but investment has slowed markedly, with only two percent growth since 2009,” the blog notes, adding, “The $630.4 million 2010 investment is only one-third of the $2 billion needed to stay on track with the Global Plan to Stop TB 10-year implementation and research strategy to eliminate TB as a public health threat by 2050” (Mazzotta, 3/28).

South Africa Announces Initiative To Test Thousands Of Miners For TB

“South Africa wants to test hundreds of thousands of miners for tuberculosis [TB] and ensure sufferers get treatment over the next year,” David Mametja, head of South African National Department of Health’s TB program, said Tuesday at a workshop organized by the Stop TB Partnership, the Associated Press/Washington Post reports. Mametja “said the government is concerned the high prevalence of the disease among miners is holding an entire region back in the fight against TB,” and that while “it may be impossible to reach the nearly 600,000 miners in South Africa in one year, even those at highest risk in the gold industry, … setting an ambitious target is a way to show ‘it’s not business as usual,'” the AP writes.