The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the tuberculosis (TB) drug Sirturo, also known as bedaquiline, “appears to be just the first step in an exciting renaissance for TB drug development,” Mark Harrington, executive director of Treatment Action Group (TAG), writes in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. “Another new drug, delamanid, is currently in late clinical trials and has been submitted to the European Medicines Agency for review as a treatment for [multidrug-resistant (MDR)] TB,” he notes. Harrington concludes, “It’s an exciting time for TB treatment, but much more needs to be done and more resources are needed. We need to focus not only on the discovery and development of new drugs, but also on ensuring that news drugs are delivered to those who need them and in combinations that can prevent the emergence of new types of drug resistance” (12/28).
“Multidrug-resistant [tuberculosis (TB)] is at epidemic proportions in some parts of the world — a growing problem the U.S. is surprisingly unprepared for,” the Wall Street Journal reports. Noting “[t]he U.S. beat back multidrug-resistant tuberculosis [MDR-TB] in the 1990s,” the newspaper continues, “Today, however, a new threat is emerging as drug resistance worsens abroad and far more dangerous strains develop and spread, including some that are all but untreatable with standard drugs.” The Wall Street Journal examines reasons behind a resurgence of MDR-TB in the U.S., treatment and control efforts, and how “funding and expertise are in decline” (12/19).
Tuberculosis (TB) “is the second leading cause of death due to infectious disease worldwide; taking approximately 1.4 million lives in 2011 alone,” Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.) writes in an opinion piece in The Hill’s “Congress Blog,” adding, “The good news is that the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) to halt and reverse the TB epidemic by 2015 has already been achieved in several regions of the world.” She notes “advances have been made in TB diagnostics with the increased availability of Xpert, a new test that detects the disease — including in HIV-positive people — within 100 minutes.” However, she continues, “we cannot defeat the disease without the introduction of faster drug susceptibility tests and new drugs and vaccines.”
“On Thursday (Dec. 14), [Nigeria] signed five grant agreements with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria,” with some of the money going “to provide for antiretroviral therapy treatment and prevention services, particularly on mother-to-child HIV transmission,” Devex’s “The Development Newswire” blog reports. Of the total $335 million, $265 million will go toward HIV/AIDS activities, while $70 million will be used for TB initiatives, the blog notes (Ravelo, 12/14). “For Nigeria, [the] grant agreements address a tremendous need: Nigeria has the second highest number of people living with HIV in the world and only 30 percent of people requiring HIV treatment are receiving antiretroviral therapy,” a Global Fund press release states (12/13).
Noting that the WHO’s Global Tuberculosis Report shows “that access to care and treatment for tuberculosis [TB] has expanded substantially in the past two decades,” Deborah Derrick, president of Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, writes in an AlertNet opinion piece, “Not only is this good news for those countries that are most vulnerable to tuberculosis; it is also good news for the global community,” as TB can be passed through the air. Derrick describes some of the interventions against TB instituted internationally, and she notes the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria “is the largest global donor to tuberculosis programs, providing 82 percent of international funding to fight the disease,” as well as “91 percent of international financing” to fight multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB).
PEPFAR will purchase up to 150 rapid tuberculosis (TB) Xpert testing devices and cartridges to test about 450,000 people for TB, “addressing a need to improve diagnoses of drug-resistant strains of disease, and to identify the disease in HIV-positive people in sub-Saharan Africa and Myanmar, the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator announced” Tuesday, the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. “The investment is part of an ongoing effort,” according to the blog, which notes, “The announcement of the program’s added investment in the Cepheid Xpert tests, following the pre-World AIDS Day release last week of PEPFAR’s blueprint for creating an AIDS-free generation backs the plan’s stated purpose of applying evidence-based approaches and scientific advances to confront the global HIV epidemic” (Barton, 12/4).
In the New York Times’ “Scientist At Work” blog, Alexander Kumar, a physician and researcher at Concordia Station in Antarctica, examines the question of “why humans should venture out to other planets, and perhaps in the process create new problems, when we have so many problems on our own planet,” including HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and other “largely preventable and treatable” conditions. Kumar, who is “investigat[ing] the possibility of one day sending humans to Mars” for the European Space Agency, says he is “repeatedly asked … why the human race would invest its precious and finite resources (money) into space exploration?” He continues, “People have presented valid arguments both ways: those against, about depriving the bottom billion of our planet by diverting much-needed funding; and those in favor, for furthering mankind’s now-desperate need for discoveries and new life-saving technology through exploration in space.
The Financial Times on Friday published a special report titled, “FT Health: Combating AIDS 2012” (.pdf). The report, released ahead of World AIDS Day, observed annually on December 1, includes several pieces, including an article discussing human behavior as an obstacle to eradicating HIV, an article examining Global Fund reform, and an article examining how the number of AIDS-related deaths could be reduced by more effectively treating tuberculosis patients (11/30).
Writing in the Global Health Technologies Coalition’s “Breakthroughs” blog, Eleonora Jimenez-Levi, a senior researcher at the Treatment Action Group (TAG), examines the 2012 Report on Tuberculosis Research Funding Trends: 2005â€“2011,”the latest report on the state of funding for tuberculosis (TB) research and product development.” Jimenez-Levi recaps the findings and recommendations of the report and concludes, “Promising new tools are on the horizon, but without political will and adequate funding to support the development of new vaccines, diagnostics, and drugs, the world will not be able to contain the growing problem that drug-resistant TB poses, much less eliminate TB as a public health threat by 2050” (11/27).
UNAIDS and the Stop TB Partnership on Tuesday launched an “initiative aimed at reducing HIV deaths caused by tuberculosis (TB) by half” by 2015, the U.N. News Centre reports (11/27). The memorandum of understanding signed by the groups states they will “take action … to strategically address the intolerable burden of TB mortality borne by people living with HIV,” according to a UNAIDS press release. “The two organizations are developing a detailed work plan and have committed to collaboration to achieve three main objectives within the next three years: increase political commitment and resource mobilization for TB/HIV; strengthen knowledge, capacity and engagement of civil society organizations, affected communities and the private sector; and help most-affected countries integrate TB/HIV services,” the press release continues (11/27). “TB/HIV is a deadly combination. We can stop people from dying of HIV/TB co-infection through integration and simplification of HIV and TB services,” UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe said, according to the U.N. News Centre (11/27).