In this Politico opinion piece, Desmond Tutu, archbishop emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa, and Gerry Elsdon, a South African businesswoman and television host — both tuberculosis (TB) survivors — write that one priority at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) in Washington, D.C., this week “should be spearheading a joint global effort against HIV and tuberculosis.” They write, “The rationale for a joint effort is clear,” adding, “Where HIV and TB are most common, the epidemics have merged, or are in the process of merging, into a single co-epidemic,” and “[t]hose whose immune systems are weakened by HIV are at extreme risk of dying from TB.” They conclude, “Thanks to a series of recent scientific breakthroughs, this week’s conference is the first in 30 years that has activists seriously contemplating the end of AIDS. Yet to see a real end to AIDS, we must put an end to TB. So let’s combine our efforts to reach these two goals” (7/24).
“Results from a groundbreaking trial of three drugs given in combination — one of them completely new and one not yet licensed for this use — killed more than 99 percent of patients’ [tuberculosis (TB)] bacteria after two weeks of treatment,” and the combination “appears to be equally effective on drug-resistant TB,” the Guardian reports (Boseley, 7/23). The combination “comprises a candidate TB drug called PA-824, the antibiotic moxifloxacin not yet approved for TB therapy, and an existing TB drug, pyrazinamide,” Agence France-Presse writes, noting the combination is called PaMZ (7/23). “Because the combination doesn’t contain isoniazid or rifampicin, the two main medicines used against TB, it also may provide a much-needed weapon against strains that fail to succumb to those drugs and are spreading, the researchers wrote,” Bloomberg Businessweek reports (Bennett, 7/23). The Phase II study, which was presented on Monday at the International AIDS Conference in Washington and published in the Lancet, “needs to be confirmed in larger and longer trials,” according to Reuters (Steenhuysen, 7/23).
With Africa’s “emerging position in the global order, … [a]stute African leaders are striving to ensure that this realignment delivers a new paradigm of partnership for sustainable health development — a partnership that is led by Africa, for Africans, through African-sourced solutions,” UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe writes in a Huffington Post “Impact Blog” opinion piece. The African Union is taking steps “to reduce the continent’s dependence on foreign solutions and foreign ‘aid’ while adopting and scaling up development solutions that have been proven to work in different African countries, and finding better and more sustainable approaches to financing them,” he states. “It makes a lot of sense to apply such an approach to addressing three killer diseases: AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria,” he continues, adding that “the overreliance of Africa’s AIDS response on foreign investments, foreign drugs and foreign solutions must be addressed.”
Jennifer Furin, an infectious diseases physician and medical anthropologist who specializes in the management of tuberculosis (TB) and HIV in resource-poor settings, writes in a post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog that “when it comes to the great advancements made in global HIV and TB care, children are being left behind.” She continues, “All children with HIV and TB deserve access to diagnosis and treatment, and the death of even a single child from either one of these diseases signifies a global failure. … It is time to require that pediatric formulations of TB and HIV medications be developed.” She notes that StopTB.org will host a talk show on July 22 featuring women and young people who have been affected by TB and HIV (7/17).
GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog interviews Mario Raviglione, the director of the WHO’s Stop TB Department since 2003, “about the progress and frustrations with detection and treatment of tuberculosis [TB].” Among other topics, Raviglione discusses “progress in addressing HIV-TB co-infection,” the emergence of extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB), and research in diagnostics, such as the GeneXpert machine, which gives a “very quick” diagnosis of MDR-TB, according to the blog (Donnelly, 7/12).
PEPFAR “is recommending improvements to efforts to detect [tuberculosis (TB)] in settings offering health services to pregnant women, women with HIV, newborns, and children,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. The blog outlines the recommendations of the PMTCT/Pediatric HIV Technical Working Group, which said the decision to produce guidelines for integrating TB screening into maternal and child HIV programs was based on “[r]ecent studies [that] have shown that HIV-infected pregnant women are at increased risk of transmitting both TB and HIV to their infants” (Barton, 7/11).
The widespread incidence of drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) “calls for a new approach to TB in the developing world,” a Bloomberg editorial states. A “breakthrough test,” called Xpert MTB/RIF, “makes mass screening [for drug-resistant TB] feasible,” according to the editorial, which notes the test, developed by “California-based Cephied Inc. in collaboration with the non-profit Foundation for Innovative Diagnostics with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” detects resistance to the TB drug rifampicin, provides results in two hours, and can be used without advanced laboratory facilities.
Agence France-Presse examines a rise in tuberculosis (TB) cases in Madagascar, writing, “Last year alone, 26,700 people contracted TB, according to the health ministry, a jump of more than 16 percent compared with 2009, when a military coup precipitated an economic crisis as donors suspended aid to one of the world’s poorest countries.” The news service notes, “Chronic malnutrition and poverty deepened, contributing to the spike in TB, experts say” and adds, “Even before the political crisis, Madagascar suffered one of the highest rates of malnutrition in the world.”
“A global study mapping human diseases that come from animals like tuberculosis, AIDS, bird flu or Rift Valley fever has found that just 13 such diseases are responsible for 2.4 billion cases of human illness and 2.2 million deaths a year,” Reuters reports (Kelland, 7/5). “The report, which was conducted by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the Institute of Zoology (U.K.) and the Hanoi School of Public Health in Vietnam, maps poverty, livestock-keeping and the diseases humans get from animals, and presents a ‘top 20’ list of geographical hotspots,” an ILRI press release states (7/5). The study “found that Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Tanzania, as well as India have the highest zoonotic disease burdens, with widespread illness and death,” Reuters writes.
“Johnson & Johnson [J&J] said Monday that it is seeking U.S. approval for the first new type of medicine to fight deadly tuberculosis [TB] in more than four decades,” the Associated Press reports, adding, “The experimental drug, called bedaquiline, also would be the first medicine specifically for treating multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.” According to the news service, “J&J’s Janssen Research & Development unit created the drug, which was tested in several hundred patients with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis in two mid-stage studies lasting for six months,” and “[s]ome patients were studied for about 1 1/2 years.” The news service notes, “Janssen’s head of infectious diseases, Dr. Wim Pays, said the company will also apply for approval of bedaquiline in other countries where TB is very common” (Johnson, 7/2).