The World Health Organization (WHO) is warning that new strains of tuberculosis (TB) are appearing that are resistant to multiple drugs (MDR-TB).
These strains begin resistant to commonly used medications, rather than developing resistance as the patient is treated.
According to WHO, each year brings 9 million new cases of TB, nearly half a million of which are resistant to multiple drugs, and each year almost 2 million people die from TB.
The more drug resistance the TB strain shows, the fewer the treatment options, and the greater the likelihood of death. People in developing countries are especially susceptible to infections from TB.
The most commonly prescribed treatment for TB is an antibiotic discovered more than 40 years ago. A long course of treatment with multiple pills daily is required. Treatment is both expensive and unpleasant, and it is difficult to get patients to complete the full course of treatment.
That may change, thanks to an antibiotic currently being tested. The antibiotic, moxifloxacin (brand name Avelox), could reduce the treatment time down from the range of 6 months to 2 years, to only 2 months. It is hoped that the reduced course of treatment will improve patient compliance. Moxifloxacin is also used to treat pneumonia.