WHO introduces new treatment regimen for multi drug resistant TB

Josephine Chinele, CNS Correspondent, Malawi
The World Health Organization (WHO) has introduced new recommendations for the treatment of multi drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) patients, which shortens the treatment duration from the current 24 months to 9-12 months. MDR-TB and extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) are able to withstand certain antibiotics used in typical TB drug regimens.

Resistance can occur for a number of reasons, and then transmit directly from one person to another, creating potentially devastating scenario for communities.

This is more true in countries with unstable or developing healthcare systems. Drug resistance is pernicious as it spreads its tentacles quickly, exposing more and more people to its devastating consequences. At the same time an increasingly heavy burden is placed on healthcare systems and on families and communities that are impacted. WHO advises that, “Countries around the world, especially those with high burden of TB cases need to move quickly to implement the new regimen by formally incorporating the regimen into their national clinical guidelines.”

The new regimen is indeed a major breakthrough in the fight against TB, dramatically easing the burden of treatment on patients. In his presentation  during a webinar hosted by Citizen News  Service for journalists, the Union’s, Vice President for Research and Development, Dr ID Rusen rued that though an estimated 480,000 new  cases of MDR-TB  occur every year but only a quarter of these estimated cases are detected and put on treatment. Moreover only 50% of those put on treatment are able to complete it successfully. Currently recommended treatments are lengthy and often difficult to tolerate, said Rusen.

National Programme Director for Malawi TB control Programme, Dr James Mpunga said that Malawi reports 28 cases of MDR-TB in a year. He said that this type of TB is an emerging problem for Malawi, adding that its prevalence rate is at 5% according to a 2011 survey which his organization did. Mpunga noted that even though Malawi has made strides in reducing cases of TB, the disease is still a  major public health problem. Perhaps the new treatment regimen, which is more patient friendly, will help countries tackle the menace of MDR-TB.

Josephine Chinele, Citizen News Service - CNS
July 12, 2016