Levofloxacin demonstrates efficacy in curbing drug-resistant tuberculosis, offering a cost-effective solution with potential global implications.
An antibiotic, levofloxacin, has shown promising results in curbing the emergence of a particularly resistant form of tuberculosis in various populations, according to two studies presented on Thursday.
This outcome is particularly noteworthy given the cost-effectiveness of this medication.
One of these studies, conducted among South African children, is "a major breakthrough that could potentially protect millions of children from a devastating disease," said Philippe Duneton, Executive Director of the non-profit organisation Unitaid, which co-funded the research.
In addition to the first study in South Africa, a second was carried out among Vietnamese adults. Both studies have not yet been published in a journal.
The researchers, who presented the results at an international pneumology congress in Paris, conducted the studies independently but pooled their findings to determine that this treatment reduced the risk of developing multidrug-resistant tuberculosis by 60 per cent.
Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis is a particularly dangerous form of tuberculosis as it resists the two main treatments for the disease, isoniazid, and rifampicin.
While multidrug-resistant tuberculosis represents only a small portion of the total global cases (around 5 per cent, approximately 450,000 cases), it is highly perilous.
According to 2022 data from the World Health Organization (WHO), tuberculosis is currently the second deadliest infectious disease globally after COVID-19.
In this context, the emergence of a new preventive treatment for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis would be welcome news, especially a medication as easily accessible as levofloxacin.
It is already known that this form of tuberculosis can be treated with antibiotics, but these drugs are often inaccessible in developing countries, where the disease is most prevalent.
In July, the NGO Doctors Without Borders urged the American pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson to refrain from extending its patent on bedaquiline, one of these treatments.