What will it take to eliminate drug-resistant tuberculosis?

This is the third article in our State of the Art series, with senior RESIST-TB editors Bob Horsburgh, Carole Mitnick and Christoph Lange.

Drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) is challenging to diagnose, treat, and prevent, but this situation is slowly changing. If the world is to drastically reduce the incidence of DR-TB, we must stop creating new DR-TB as an essential first step. The DR-TB epidemic that is ongoing should also be directly addressed. First-line drug resistance must be rapidly detected using universal molecular testing for resistance to at least rifampin and, preferably, other key drugs at initial TB diagnosis. DR-TB treatment outcomes must also improve dramatically. Effective use of currently available, new, and repurposed drugs, combined with patient-centered treatment that aids adherence and reduces catastrophic costs, are essential. Innovations within sight, such as short, highly effective, broadly indicated regimens, paired with point-of-care drug susceptibility testing, could accelerate progress in treatment outcomes. Preventing or containing resistance to second-line and novel drugs is also critical and will require high-quality systems for diagnosis, regimen selection, and treatment monitoring. Finally, earlier detection and/or prevention of DR-TB is necessary, with particular attention to airborne infection control, case finding, and preventive therapy for contacts of patients with DR-TB. Implementing these strategies can overcome the barrier that DR-TB represents for global TB elimination efforts, and could ultimately make global elimination of DR-TB (fewer than one annual case per million population worldwide) attainable. There is a strong cost-effectiveness case to support pursuing DR-TB elimination; however, achieving this goal will require substantial global investment plus political and societal commitment at national and local levels.

Read the full article here.