Trials on two new tuberculosis antibiotics — TBA-7371 and Sutezolid — have begun, coming at a time when drug resistance is on the rise.
The trials are being conducted in Mexico by the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development.
“These two drugs give us great hope. We have struggled with multidrug-resistance for a long time,” said the president of the TB Alliance, Dr Mel Spigelman.
The World Health Organisation has warned of the rising threat of antibiotics resistance and the lack of new drugs to combat it.
In a report titled Antibacterial Agents in Clinical Development, WHO said that no antibiotic has been developed to combat the growing public health threat of TB multidrug resistance in the past 70 years.
TBA-7371 is being developed by TB Alliance in collaboration with AstraZeneca, a global biopharmaceutical company.
“With no pre-existing resistance or cross-resistance with other TB drugs, TBA-7371 could have significant potential in the treatment of the bacterial infection,” said Dr Spigelman.
Sutezolid on the other hand has shown promising results for extensively drug-resistant TB.
Potential treatment options
“Several years ago, TB drug development was at a standstill but now we have the backbone of new regimens that we are testing in advanced clinical trials along with other TB drugs,” said Dr Spigelman.
“And while we still have a way to go before we arrive at a universal cure for this disease, we have the building blocks coming through the research pipeline that show us we can get there.”
The WHO report found few potential treatment options for the antibiotic-resistant infections identified as posing the greatest threat to health, including drug-resistant TB, which kills around 250,000 people each year.
“Only seven new agents for TB are currently in clinical trials. Of these, four are in phase one and only one compound is in phase three. This is especially problematic because the treatment of TB requires a combination of at least three antibiotics,” said WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Currently, the WHO recommends delamanid for treating children and adolescents with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) and clofazimine for children and adults with MDR-TB.
Child-friendly fixed-dose combination formulations of isoniazid, rifampicin, ethambutol and pyrazinamide are also recommended for treating paediatric tuberculosis.
Tuberculosis is now the world’s leading infectious disease, killing more people than HIV/Aids, according to the WHO’s Global Tuberculosis Report 2015. Of the 1.5 million global deaths attributed to the disease last year, at least 50,000 were from East Africa, mostly from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.