Taking a common antibiotic could significantly reduce the risk of children becoming sick with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), according to recent findings. In a late-stage trial involving 1,000 healthy children exposed to MDR-TB in South Africa, researchers found that a single daily dose of levofloxacin reduced the risk of MDR-TB disease by 56%. This breakthrough in the prevention of TB is particularly significant considering that the disease claims the lives of around 240,000 children every year, with the majority being under the age of five.
Children are especially vulnerable to MDR-TB, a form of the disease that has developed resistance to multiple drugs. Treating MDR-TB is a challenging and lengthy process, often leading to incomplete treatment. However, this preventative drug comes in the form of a child-friendly, fruit-flavored tablet, making it easier for children to take.
In addition to breakthroughs in prevention, researchers have also made strides in the detection and treatment of MDR-TB. A recent study led by the Ludwig Maximilian University in Germany developed a diagnostic tool that requires only a finger prick of blood. This simple and rapid analytical tool has the potential to revolutionize the detection of TB in children, especially considering that most tests rely on sputum or phlegm, which children cannot produce on request.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a five-year plan to improve the prevention, treatment, and care of childhood TB. By 2027, the WHO aims to reach 90% of people with TB with diagnosis and treatment services and ensure that 90% of high-risk individuals have access to preventive treatment.
These recent breakthroughs in both prevention and detection are crucial steps forward in the fight against TB. With continued research and development, we can hope to see a significant reduction in the number of children affected by this deadly disease.
Q: How effective is the antibiotic levofloxacin in reducing the risk of MDR-TB in children?
A: Levofloxacin has been found to reduce the risk of MDR-TB disease in children by 56%.
Q: How do children typically get infected with MDR-TB?
A: Children can become infected with MDR-TB through exposure to communities with high burdens of TB and MDR-TB.
Q: What are the challenges in diagnosing TB in children?
A: Diagnosing TB in children can be difficult due to the inability to produce sputum on request and the low bacterial load and non-specific symptoms of childhood TB.
Q: What is the WHO’s plan to address childhood TB?
A: The WHO aims to improve prevention, treatment, and care of childhood TB through a five-year plan, ensuring that 90% of people with TB are reached with diagnosis and treatment services by 2027.
Q: How deadly is TB compared to other diseases?
A: TB is the world’s second deadliest disease, with 1.3 million deaths in 2022. It is the leading killer among people with HIV.