Scientists at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) have come up with a potential new treatment for the latent form of tuberculosis (TB).
Dr. Dick Menzies says this work attains significance because patients with the latent form of TB, though do no show symptoms and are not contagious, they pose the biggest challenge when it comes to controlling the disease.
"Our results show that a four-month treatment with a drug called rifampin is better tolerated than the traditional nine-month treatment with a drug called isoniazid," explained Dr. Menzies in the study paper, recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
"The side effects with rifampin are much less frequent, particularly liver toxicity - which is the most serious risk of the traditional therapy with isoniazid. In addition patients are much more likely to complete this treatment - another big drawback to the nine month standard therapy," the researcher added.
Patients who currently receive a diagnosis of latent TB are treated for nine months with daily doses of isoniazid.
The treatment may be effective, but it is very long and has major side effects on the liver, which is why patients often do not complete treatment and its efficacy is reduced.
Dr. Menzies said that the new therapeutic option, upon which the latest study was focused, would last only four months and cause a lot less liver damage.
Patients therefore adhere better to their treatment regimens, which is a critical first step towards ensuring the efficacy of the medication, according to the researcher.
The study was conducted on 847 patients in Canada, Brazil and Saudi Arabia, and thus the results can be generalized to a very broad population.
Currently, rifampin is most often used to treat the active form of TB. While it is suggested that further studies are needed to test the effectiveness of the medication against latent TB, the study researchers consider it to be very promising.