World Tuberculosis (TB) Day is observed annually on 24 March to raise awareness about TB and efforts to end the global epidemic. TB is reportedly the second leading cause of death worldwide by an infectious disease – only recently moving from first to second place, behind COVID-19. Over the past 10 years, 668 clinical trials for TB treatments have been initiated, nearly 30 per cent of which have begun since 2020, according to statistics from GlobalData.
In most instances, TB is both preventable and curable. The treatment usually consists of a combination of antibiotics (isoniazid, rifampin, pyrazinamide and ethambutol) for at least six months, and prevention relies on proper hygiene and isolation from those most at risk of severe infection. Vulnerable populations include people with weakened immune systems, or those who live/work in congregate settings. However, a growing concern in recent years has been the emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, including M. tuberculosis.
Stephanie Kurdach, Infectious Disease Analyst at GlobalData, comments, “Antibiotic resistance is a serious occurrence, but it can be mitigated by patients using their prescribed medications appropriately and completing their entire treatment regimen without stopping prematurely.”
The World Health Organisation estimates there were 450,000 cases of drug-resistant TB in 2021. Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis occurs when the infection does not respond to at least isoniazid and rifampin. Extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis occurs when the infection is further resistant to fluoroquinolones and second-line drugs.
According to GlobalData, the TB product pipeline currently has 240 products in active development. Of the 18 products in late-stage development with disclosed targets, one-third are first-in-class products.
The theme of World Tuberculosis Day 2023 is ‘Yes! We can end TB!’. To support this mission, the WHO is issuing a call to action among the member states to accelerate the rollout of specific treatment regimens for drug-resistant TB. This will lead up to the UN High-Level Meeting on TB on 22 September 2023.
Kurdach concludes, “An effective strategy for minimising antibiotic resistance is to develop products that act on novel targets, thereby reducing the risk of any cross-resistance among antibiotics. One product to watch out for is SQ-109 – a small molecule antibiotic from Infectex, which has reported positive safety and efficacy data in Phase I and II trials. This is currently the only first-in-class antibiotic in Phase III development for TB.”
*Includes clinical trials initiated between January 2013 and December 2022 including trials that are currently ongoing, as well as trials that have been completed, terminated, suspended and withdrawn.