U.S. health officials say they have found a far simpler therapy for people at risk of developing tuberculosis, addressing a key barrier to preventing the spread of the disease. Patients who took a combination of two drugs just 12 times over three months fared as well as those who received the standard treatment that requires 270 daily doses, according to a landmark U.S. government study released Monday.
"New, simpler ways to prevent TB disease are urgently needed, and this breakthrough represents one of the biggest developments in TB treatment in decades," Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a statement. The far less onerous regimen involves taking rifapentine, an antibiotic sold by French drugmaker Sanofi under the brand name Priftin, along with isoniazid, an effective tuberculosis drug in use since the 1950s.
The study results, presented at a medical meeting on Monday, could mark a major advance in preventing TB in countries with low-to-medium incidence of the highly infectious disease, according to the CDC, which sponsored the study. While many people believe TB to be a largely conquered disease of the past, there were more than 11,000 cases reported in the United States last year, and it remains one of the world's leading infectious killers, according to the CDC.
The 10-year study included more than 8,000 patients with latent TB infection, meaning they have the tuberculosis bacteria in their bodies but no symptoms and are not contagious. More than 11 million Americans are positive for latent TB, the CDC said, with Asians, other minorities and foreign-born individuals disproportionately affected.