Factsheets

New Tools to Fight TB

Detection

  • TB is most often currently diagnosed using a sputum smear test, which lacks sensitivity, leading to millions of undetected TB cases.
  • In December 2010, the World Health Organization endorsed a new tool to diagnose TB, Xpert MTB/RIF. Instead of using a microscope, this revolutionary tool uses DNA technology to rapidly identify TB bacteria in sputum samples in less than two hours. Xpert can also detect resistance to Rifampicin, a first line anti-TB drug.
  • There is still a need for a rapid point of care test to diagnose TB. New tools are in development, including rapid testing and a test using blood rather than sputum (meaning it can detect TB affecting any part of the body and would work well for adults, children, and those with HIV).
  • Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) and other partners are working to ensure that these new tools are widely available and used effectively and appropriately.
  • The Global Plan to Stop TB states all patients previously treated for TB should be tested for MDR-TB using rapid tests. In 2010, only 6% of previously treated patients had been tested for drug susceptibility.[1]

Drugs

  • The last drug approved to treat TB was rifampicin, which cannot be taken alongside antiretroviral (ARV) drugs used to treat HIV/AIDS.
  • New drug candidates are being tested for use in treating drug-resistant strains of TB in areas where HIV/AIDS is common.
  • If moxifloxacin, another powerful drug currently in development, is shown to be safe and effective, it could shorten TB therapy to three to four months.
  • The Global Alliance for TB Drug Development (TB Alliance), a non-profit, public-private partnership developing affordable new drug regimens for tuberculosis, has built a robust pipeline of ten drug development projects, and ultimately aims to reduce the standard course of TB treatment to two to three months.
  • There are currently 10 new or repurposed TB drugs in clinical trials. Two of the drugs in Phase III trials are expected to yield results between 2012 and 2013.[2]
  • There are also drugs in clinical trials being tested to treat forms of drug-resistant TB.

Vaccines

  • The only TB vaccine that exists, called the Bacille Calmette Guérin (BCG) vaccine, was first used in 1921. It prevents only certain types of TB that occur in young children, such as TB meningitis, and is not a stand-alone, successful tool for controlling TB globally.
  • An effective TB vaccine could prevent over 40 million deaths over the next 50 years.[3]
  • The AERAS Global TB Vaccine Foundation, a public-private partnership, was launched in 2003 to conduct vaccine trials and eventually license and deliver an effective vaccine.
  • There are 9 vaccines currently in clinical trials.[4]
 

[1] World Health Organization. (2011). Global Tuberculosis Control Report 2011. Geneva: World Health Organization.

[2] Stop TB Partnership. (2012). Working Group on New TB Drugs: Drug Pipeline [website]. Geneva: World Health Organization. Retrieved from http://www.newtbdrugs.org/pipeline.php.

[3] Stop TB Partnership. (2008). Tuberculosis Vaccines: Hope for the Future. Geneva, Stop TB Partnership.

[4] Stop TB Partnership. (2010). Tuberculosis Vaccine Candidates 2010. Geneva: Stop TB Partnership. Retrieved from http://www.stoptb.org/wg/new_vaccines/assets/documents/TB%20Vaccine%20Pipeline%2010%20-%2003%2021%2011.pdf.