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    Innovative Drug Therapy Brings Hope for Patients with Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis

    Patients suffering from challenging-to-treat drug-resistant tuberculosis now have a chance for a radical improvement in treatment effectiveness and quality of life. An innovative drug therapy, initiated by the first Polish patients with drug-resistant tuberculosis, has been announced by Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières).

    Decrease in Tuberculosis Cases

    According to Doctors Without Borders’ data, Poland registered 3,704 tuberculosis cases in 2021, but the actual number of incidents was higher—around 5,000 new cases annually before the COVID-19 pandemic. Among them, 1% (approximately 50 cases per year) were drug-resistant.

    Revolutionizing Treatment through Pretomanid

    Through the import of a crucial component, pretomanid, patients can now undergo treatment at home instead of enduring up to 24 months of hospitalization. They receive a safer and much more effective combination of oral drugs. This marks the first successful results of the pilot program for ambulatory treatment of drug-resistant tuberculosis in Poland, supported by Doctors Without Borders and the WHO.

    The Pilot Program’s Initiation and Success

    The pilot program commenced in Poland in September 2022. One of the main drugs in this new scheme is pretomanid—an antibiotic previously unavailable in Poland. Thanks to the provision of this drug by Doctors Without Borders, the first patients have already begun the therapy using the new approach.

    Positive Impact on Patients’ Lives

    During the program, 110 drug-resistant tuberculosis patients participated. Since pretomanid is relatively new in Poland, only a few of them have received the full treatment regimen containing this antibiotic. According to Joanna Ładomirska, the medical coordinator of Doctors Without Borders in Poland, the new drug combination is highly effective and enables patients to lead their normal lives without endangering others or being exposed to hospital-acquired infections.

    Promising Success Rates and Global Recommendations

    According to Doctors Without Borders’ data, the new therapy exhibits an impressive success rate, up to 89%, compared to slightly over 50% in previously used regimens. The organization’s research served as the basis for the latest 2022 World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations for drug-resistant tuberculosis treatment. These recommendations have the potential to become the standard in Poland as well.

    Collaborative Efforts and Ongoing Research

    The Ministerial pilot program for ambulatory drug-resistant tuberculosis treatment is coordinated by the National Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases Institute in Warsaw (IGiChP). Organizations such as WHO and Doctors Without Borders support it by sharing their valuable experience. Doctors Without Borders treated 17,000 cases of tuberculosis last year, including over 2,300 drug-resistant cases. The organization consistently conducts its research and introduces innovations in diagnosis and treatment models.

    Global Challenge and Preventive Measures:

    Tuberculosis, caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex, is an infectious disease. Its most common form is pulmonary tuberculosis, while extrapulmonary forms can affect lymph nodes, the genitourinary system, the musculoskeletal system, and the central nervous system. The emergence of drug-resistant strains poses a significant health issue, emphasizing the importance of preventing their spread by providing access to more effective and simplified treatment.

    In October 2022, WHO reported a notable increase in tuberculosis cases, including drug-resistant cases. In 2021, over 10 million people worldwide were infected with tuberculosis, reflecting a 4.5% increase compared to the previous year. Approximately 1.6 million individuals died due to the disease. Drug-resistant tuberculosis accounted for nearly 450,000 cases, marking a 3% rise from 2020.

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