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New Partnership Will Take On Multi-Drug-Resistant TB


A doctor points to an X-ray showing a pair of lungs infected with tuberculosis. (January 2014.)

One of the most serious threats to public health today is anti-microbial resistance, or the ability of disease-causing micro-organisms to develop immunity to medications that are designed to kill them.

One of the most serious threats to public health today is anti-microbial resistance, or the ability of disease-causing micro-organisms to develop immunity to medications that are designed to kill them. This is particularly true of tuberculosis, or TB.

TB kills about 1.3 million people each year and is the leading cause of death among people living with HIV in Africa.

In most cases, TB is treatable and curable; however, people with TB can die if they do not get proper treatment.

TB is usually treated with a six to nine month course of several antibiotics. If the wrong or poor quality antibiotics are prescribed, or a patient does not or cannot complete the full course of treatment, the bacteria may develop resistance to the medication.

Multidrug-resistant TB, or MDR-TB, has developed a resistance to the two most potent TB drugs. As a result, medications to treat MDR-TB are scarce. According to the World Health Organization, as many as half a million new cases of MDR-TB occur worldwide, with hundreds of thousands of people dying from the disease.

In an effort to help fight MDR-TB, the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, has formed a new public-private partnership with Janssen Therapeutics, a subsidiary of the Johnson and Johnson company. Janssen has developed Bedaquiline, the newest member of a class of antibiotics which is effective against MDR-TB.This is a breakthrough achievement in TB drug discovery and the first of its kind to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration in nearly 50 years.

To make Bedaquiline more accessible, USAID and Janssen signed a Memorandum of Understanding under which Janssen will donate 30 million dollars’ worth of the medication over 4 years. For its part, USAID will work with its country partners, national TB programs and with Janssen, to ensure responsible access and appropriate use of the treatment.

"USAID remains committed to addressing the growing concern around antibiotic resistant bacteria as outlined in President Obama's Executive Order and supporting introduction and appropriate use of new drugs to fight MDR-TB," said USAID Administrator, Dr. Rajiv Shah. "This collaboration will bring new hope to MDR-TB patients in need of better treatment options."

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