In an attempt to identify whether two clinical measurements could help identify which TB patients could benefit from shorter treatment, researchers found that the measurements failed to work. The recent study was published online by the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

The two measurements tested were: absence of a cavity in the lungs (detected by chest X-ray), and sputum culture conversion.

The Phase III clinical trial conducted by the Tuberculosis Research Unit (TBRU) at Case Western Reserve University and UH Case Medical Center in Cleveland (the only National Institutes of Health supported TB unit in the US) involved TB patients in Uganda, Brazil, and the Philippines.

"We found that combining these two clinical measurements failed to select TB patients who could benefit from shorter drug treatment. TB patients receiving 4 months of TB treatment had their disease come back much more often than those who got 6 months of drug treatment," said W. Henry Boom, MD, an infectious disease expert and Director of the TBRU in an announcement about the study. "This study points out the limitations of current clinical measures to identify the relatively small group of TB patients who respond poorly to standard drug treatment."