07 October 2019 | Statements

Unitaid invests in better, safer and simpler treatments and preventive therapy for multidrug-resistant TB in children

Geneva – Stellenbosch University and Unitaid have signed a US$ 18.9 million grant agreement to develop child-friendly treatments and preventive therapy against multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB).

Developing and evaluating child-friendly treatments and assessing regimens to stop the disease in its tracks before it develops into active disease are expected to go a long way in reducing the burden of this dangerous form of TB.

“This project holds great promise in the fight against superbugs and is critical if we are to protect the future of thousands of children exposed to this dangerous form of TB,” said Unitaid Executive Director Lelio Marmora.

More than 95 percent of children with MDR-TB do not currently receive treatment. And those who do, are treated with regimens that are long, bad tasting, toxic, often causing severe side effects, such as irreversible hearing loss, and composed mostly of adult tablets that must be crushed.

Estimates also show that as many as 2 million children are infected with drug-resistant strains of TB bacteria but have not yet progressed to active disease. A lack of high-quality evidence limits access to treatments that could prevent TB disease from developing in most of these children.

Better Evidence and Formulations for Improved MDR-TB Treatment for Children (BENEFIT Kids) project, signed on Friday and running through 2022, will increase access to quality-assured MDR-TB medicines that are adapted for children, who have been neglected in the global response. The project aims to achieve this by:

“Children have been largely neglected to date in the global response to MDR-TB and they deserve better.  We are excited that, through Unitaid’s investment in this innovative project, Stellenbosch University and its partners can contribute to addressing this inequity by improving access for children to better, more child-friendly MDR-TB treatment and prevention,” said Project Lead Dr. Anthony Garcia-Prats, Stellenbosch University and the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

The project will not only protect thousands of children from this life-threatening disease but also save millions of dollars for health systems by averting treatment costs for active disease.

The project will be implemented in three countries: South Africa, India and the Philippines. Stellenbosch University will work with partners TB Alliance, University of California San Francisco, De La Salle University Medical Center, Johns Hopkins University, BJ Medical College, Uppsala University and Chiang Mai University.

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