FAS20013, a tuberculosis drug, currently in the experimental phase has offered hope in the treatment of multiple drug resistant and latent infections as well. The mechanism of action of the new drug is different than those used for conventional treatment.
The drug targets slow growing mycobacteria involved in the disease process and induces selective killing of the same. The other drugs target a broad spectrum of non-pathogenic microorganisms that enables development of drug resistance. Nearly all isolates have been shown to be susceptible to the compound and no resistance has been observed.
The compound is the first ever known to combat latent infection. Following infection, some patients go into a latent phase where no symptoms are seen. Such patients are not capable of infecting others, as they do not have an active infection. However, they can develop active infection at any time. Worldwide, more than 2 billion people have this latent form of the disease.
Furthermore, the drug action is precipitated in just 4 hours while Rifampicin or Isoniazid needs 12 to 14 hours to destroy the pathogen. The pharmaceutical company FASgen, Inc., is working towards marketing the novel drug for commercial use.
Overcoming multiple drug resistance in tuberculosis represents a significant challenge in the successful treatment of tuberculosis. It is associated with a fatality rate ranging from 20 to 80%. The presence of an uncontrollable active infection and failure to respond to any therapy are strong indications for isolation of the patient to prevent the emergence of drug resistant strains in the population. In worst cases, it may be even required to perform surgical resection of a part of the lung. The cost associated with such a treatment can be as high as $250,000.
The drug is currently being investigated in laboratory animals to estimate the beneficial and toxic effects. An application would soon be submitted to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding proceeding with clinical trials of the investigational new drug (IND). If promising results are obtained, we could soon have an anti-tuberculous drug for treatment of MDR-TB.