Radboud UMC leads major study into new tuberculosis treatments
On Thursday the international partnership UNITE4TB began a large-scale research program into new treatments for tuberculosis. The research team comprised of 30 scientific institutions and companies from 13 countries is led by the Radboud UMC in Nijmegen, NOS reported. The initiative is an important part of the WHO strategy to eradicate tuberculosis by 2050.
“It is a unique collaboration”, project leader and pulmonologist at the Radboud UMC, Martin Boeree said.
The research will focus on tuberculosis caused by resistant bacteria, as well as, bacteria that are sensitive to medicine. “In 90 to 95 percent of cases, the tuberculosis bacterium is not resistant and, therefore, still sensitive to drug treatment”, Boeree said.
Every year 1.4 million people die as a result of tuberculosis. During the pandemic, the number of fatal tuberculosis infections increased to 2.4 million. This is partly due to the effect that patients avoided healthcare facilities while on the other hand, care for Covid-19 patients has limited the capacity to treat tuberculosis. There are between nine and ten million tuberculosis patients treated globally every year. The majority of infections occur in countries with a lower socioeconomic status.
Even if the bacteria are sensitive to the effect of drugs, treatment can take up to six months and range up to one and a half years if the bacteria are less sensitive to drugs.
“With UNITE4B, we are now going to speed up the investigation of which drugs we need to combine with which already existing drugs to arrive at the most effective cocktail”, Boeree explained. “Reducing the treatment duration to four months, three or even two would be an important step to increase treatment adherence and get rid of tuberculosis by 2050.”
The research will take place in 40 different locations across Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. Around 185 million euros have been made available for the program which is set to last seven years.
In addition to Radboud UMC, the Dutch KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation is also part of the program which is supported by the Dutch non-profit organization Lygature.