Study aims to root out TB

Tuberculosis advocates in high spirits after the launch of the Expand new drug markets for TB (endTB) trial in Town Two Clinic.

Tuberculosis (TB) needs commitment to be conquered.

These were the words of tuberculosis survivor Goodman Makanda, of Khayelitsha, who had suffered from extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) for four years.

That lengthy struggle with XDR had taught him that there is life after TB.

But Mr Makamba is now hopeful that the drug-resistant disease will soon be defeated through a clinical trial, which was launched in Khayelitsha by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) on Thursday May 17.

The Expand new drug markets for TB (endTB) trial is a multi-site study that also includes Peru, Kazakhstan, Georgia and Lesotho.

The trial aims to find treatment regimens for multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) that are shorter, less toxic and more effective than what is now available.

According to MSF, this ambitious study is anticipated to run for four years, including the follow-up assessments after treatment is completed.

Medical co-ordinator at MSF, Dr Amir Shroufi, said the study is a collaboration with the people of Khayelitsha and the City of Cape Town.

“MSF and its international partners are financing the study, including all drugs. They have established a prefabricated structure on the grounds of Town 2 Community Day Centre, where it is expected that up to 120 clients from surrounding areas will be assessed, enrolled, treated and tracked during follow-up visits,” he said.

Dr Shroufi said TB remains a major threat to global health and to millions of people. He said TB patients can look forward to more efficient and effective treatment without injections through the launch of the endTB trial.

“Drug-resistant TB is very difficult to treat and is still killing many people. Part of the reason is that treatment is long and toxic and not effective enough. This study is looking at new and better methods of treating the disease to try to improve those outcomes.”

He said another aim is to stop people dying from TB. “We need to ask ourselves why the mortality rate is this high. Another problem is that many people do not finish their treatment. We hope this trial will end the TB mortality,” said Dr Shroufi.

The study was applauded by the City of Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for safety and security, and social services, JP Smith, who said TB is still a primary cause of death.

Mr Smith said the City is also working hard to modernise and digitises its health facilities. He said appointments to clinics should be introduced.

“This is a great initiative and we are happy to be part of it. We are working hard to please our people. Their health quality should be better,” he said.