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Biotech Science

Using Old Medications to Defeat Tuberculosis 70

Posted by Zonk
from the old-sword-new-troll dept.
TastesLikeCoughSyrup writes "Antibiotic resistant tuberculosis is spreading like wildfire in the developing world. While many researchers are looking for new drugs to combat the disease, those efforts could take years to bear fruit. Meanwhile, two scientists at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine have learned how the drug clavulanate can destroy the defenses of tuberculosis, making it vulnerable to medications in the penicillin family. The best part: it has already been approved by the FDA so doctors can start using it immediately."
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Using Old Medications to Defeat Tuberculosis

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  • by saskboy (600063) on Saturday October 27, 2007 @01:15AM (#21137875) Homepage Journal
    TB scares the hell out of me. We talk about AIDS being a huge killer in the world, well imagine a disease that is deadly, and spreads by coughing instead of by sex and blood. We should have wiped TB out by the 1980s, but we've been too casual.
  • by Neuticle (255200) on Saturday October 27, 2007 @04:07AM (#21138487) Homepage
    Having spent the last couple years living in a developing country where TB is endemic/epidemic (Tanzania), I am usually pretty jaded when it comes to things like this- malaria and TB being "forgotten" by the rich world and all that jazz.

    However, I take encouragement from two things about this:

    First is that it's an older drug, which means it will probably be off-patent soon (anyone know?). This should guarantee it's fairly affordable. Also, it's a proven drug with a clean track record so far. Both of those mean that governments like Tanzania are more likely to implement it's use for TB.

    Second is that it may (and I'm speculating here) shorten the treatment time for TB. That could be big. Current treatment time is on the order of months, if the drugs are more effective then it follows that the treatment might be shorter. That would be good for compliance: In the rich world it's hard to get people to take pills regularly for months on end, and it's no different anywhere else. People forget, or they feel better and don't think they have to continue, it happens.

    Tanzania has a TB control program which provides free medicine and Tanzanians can take medicine just as well as the rest of us. Sadly, rural clinics often don't have enough drugs to give out a whole course of treatment to everyone, so people have to return for more pills, and again for check-ups. That often means a large disruption in daily life (imagine walking an entire day to get to a clinic, then going back), and the decisions presented are not easy: skipping work regularly to go get your medicine/checkup could impact your crop, your herd, get you fired etc. I wonder how many cases of TB have relapsed or spread due to this sort of coerced non-compliance? Less disruption is a win on all fronts.

    On a less serious note, I am reminded of a particularly bad cross-country trip where I was crammed in the back of a ricketty Land Rover 110 with at least 12 people (just in the back compartment, I think the total headcount was over 20, not counting chickens). I was directly across a man who was a textbook case of kifua kikuu (TB), and the ride was almost 12 hours, with breakdowns. At a certain point, I just resigned myself to catching it.

    Amazingly, I didn't. I didn't get malaria once either.

    But in the end, malaria, TB and HIV were about the only things I didn't get at some point.

    Any other RPCV Slashdoters?
  • TB scares the hell out of me. We talk about AIDS being a huge killer in the world, well imagine a disease that is deadly, and spreads by coughing instead of by sex and blood. We should have wiped TB out by the 1980s, but we've been too casual.

    I am a firm believer in that all species have their appropriate ecological niche somewhere. In the case of diseases like TB and smallpox, that niche is in a small glass vial deep in a highly secure underground bunker.

    OTOH, if you want to see a really scary disease some time, take a look at rabies [wikipedia.org]. It may not be cool, but it's still a disease that drives you insane and kills you in extreme pain, and once you know you've got it it's too late to do anything about it... luckily, though, there are signs that a workable treatment may be in development.

The sooner you make your first 5000 mistakes, the sooner you will be able to correct them. -- Nicolaides