Tuberculosis experts in the United States and in Brazil have evidence that substituting the antibiotic moxifloxacin in current TB regimens could shorten treatment time from six months to four.

Adding moxifloxacin to a standard combination of other antibiotics increased by 17% the number of patients who cleared active infections from their lungs (raising cure rates from 68% to 85%) compared to the older antibiotic, ethambutol.

"This is the most compelling evidence in nearly 25 years that a novel antibiotic drug combination works better than the current gold standard at curing active TB infection," says Richard E. Chaisson, MD, of Johns Hopkins University and founding director of its Center for Tuberculosis Research. Chaisson presented the findings Sept. 18 in Chicago at the 47th Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

In addition, the new regimen would cut down on the rate of transmission to others and alleviate the burden on healthcare workers, allowing them to treat more patients in less time.

Moxifloxacin, approved in the United States since 1999 for pneumonia, is not currently approved as a treatment for TB. However, ethambutol has been approved to treat TB since 1962.

Researchers said substituting moxifloxacin could also make treatment far less costly overall, allowing TB programs to expand their coverage. Moxifloxacin currently costs $10 per day, but the drug’s manufacturer, Bayer Healthcare AG, has promised to make it more affordable in poor countries pending approval for use in TB.

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