South African fashion designer Innocent Molefe was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 2015. Three years later, she had developed into a multidrug-resistant strain requiring painful injections and a large amount of medication.
Three months after the first round of treatment, he relapsed and began a second round. At the end of the latter, he was still not healed.
Thanks to a new treatment approved in August 2019 by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), he no longer suffers from the disease and has returned to work. “I wanted to beat the disease, and I am living proof of that,” he says.
Of the more than 1.6 million deaths from tuberculosis that are recorded each year, more than 75,000 occur in South Africa. In 2017, South Africa found more than 322,000 cases of active tuberculosis.
The new therapy will dramatically shorten the treatment period. This treatment is based on three drugs: bedaquiline, pretomanid and linezolid, collectively called BPaL therapy. Pretomanid is the new compound developed by the New York-based nonprofit TB Alliance, which received the FDA green light in August 2019.
The treatment has been tested at three sites in South Africa, in which 109 patients have participated. He recorded a 90% success rate after six months of treatment and six months of follow-up.
The treatment consists of five tablets of the three drugs, to be taken daily for six months. This compares to the 30 to 40 drugs that patients with MDR-TB take every day for up to two years.
Tuberculosis is a preventable and curable lung disease, which produces more than 10 million recorded cases each year. The disease worsened as she became increasingly resistant to the drugs. TB Alliance started designing these trials in 2014.