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HomeHealth articlestuberculosisWhat Are the Advances in Diagnosis and Management of Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis?

Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis - Advances in Diagnosis and Management

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Drug-resistant tuberculosis does not respond to standard treatment of tuberculosis. Read the article below to know more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar

Published At March 31, 2023
Reviewed AtMarch 31, 2023

Introduction

Tuberculosis (TB) is a severe infectious disease affecting the lungs. TB infection occurs due to the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. TB that does not respond to the first-line drug of tuberculosis is known as drug-resistant tuberculosis. Drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) is a growing public health concern worldwide. The world health organization (WHO) estimated that nearly half a million cases of TB were resistant to at least one of the first-line drugs used to treat the disease in 2019. This form of TB is harder to treat and takes longer to cure, leading to increased morbidity, mortality, and healthcare costs. Despite these challenges, there have been significant advances in the diagnosis and management of drug-resistant TB in recent years.

What Are the First-Line Drugs of Tuberculosis?

First-line drugs are the medications typically used as the first choice for treating tuberculosis (TB). These drugs are considered the most effective and least toxic options for treating TB. The WHO recommends a standard treatment regimen for TB, which includes a combination of four first-line drugs:

  • Isoniazid (INH).

  • Rifampicin (RIF).

  • Pyrazinamide (PZA).

  • Ethambutol (EMB).

This combination of drugs is known as the standard short course or DOTS (directly observed treatment, short-course) regimen and is recommended for the treatment of both drug-susceptible and drug-resistant TB. The treatment duration varies based on the TB type and the patient's clinical condition.

What Are the Advances in the Diagnosis of Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis?

Diagnosis advances in drug-resistant tuberculosis include the following-

  • Rapid Molecular Tests - One of the most significant advances in the diagnosis of drug-resistant TB has been the development of rapid molecular tests. These tests can detect the presence of TB bacteria and determine their drug-resistance profile in a matter of hours, rather than the weeks or months it can take with traditional culture-based methods. This allows for earlier and more accurate diagnoses, which in turn can improve treatment outcomes.

  • Genotyping - Another critical development in the diagnosis of drug-resistant TB is using genotyping to track the spread of the disease. Genotyping involves analyzing the genetic makeup of TB bacteria to identify specific strains. This can help to identify patients who have acquired the infection from a common source, such as a shared healthcare facility or community, and identify outbreaks of drug-resistant TB.

  • Newer Diagnostic Methods - There has been increasing use of newer diagnostic methods such as line probe assay (LPA) and other next-generation sequencing methods to improve the accuracy and speed of diagnosis of drug-resistant TB.

  • Point-Of-Care Testing - Point-of-care testing methods have been developed which can be used in resource-limited settings. These methods can provide rapid results and can be used to diagnose drug-resistant TB in patients who are difficult to diagnose.

  • Integrated Approach - An integrated approach combining different diagnostic methods and techniques has been proposed to improve the accuracy and speed of diagnosis of drug-resistant TB. This includes chest radiography, sputum microscopy, and culture, as well as newer molecular tests such as Xpert MTB-RIF assay and LPA.

  • Digital Tools - In recent years, digital tools have been developed to aid in the diagnosis of drug-resistant TB. These include smartphone apps, artificial intelligence-based systems, and cloud-based platforms. These digital tools can help improve diagnosis accuracy by providing real-time data analysis. They can also help improve TB care's efficiency by providing remote monitoring and support for patients with drug-resistant TB.

  • Serological Tests - Although not widely used, serological tests, such as ELISA, have been developed to detect drug-resistant TB. These tests detect the presence of antibodies to TB antigens in patients' blood and may provide an additional tool for diagnosing drug-resistant TB in certain situations.

  • Biomarker Discovery - Biomarkers are molecules that can be used to identify the presence of a disease or to monitor the progression of a disease. Researchers are now focusing on discovering biomarkers that can be used to identify drug-resistant TB, which may help in early diagnosis and monitoring the response to treatment.

  • Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) - WGS has been used increasingly in recent years to study the genetic makeup of TB bacteria. This technology can provide insights into the evolution and spread of drug-resistant TB and can also be used to identify new drug-resistance mechanisms.

What Are the Advances in the Treatment of Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis?

  • New Drugs - One of the most critical advances in the management of drug-resistant TB has been the development of new drugs to treat the disease. Several new drugs have been recently approved for treating TB, including Bedaquiline and Delamanid. These drugs are effective against strains of TB that are resistant to first-line drugs, and they have been included in the WHO's recommended treatment regimens for drug-resistant TB.

  • Shortened Treatment Regimens - Another critical development in managing drug-resistant TB has been the implementation of shorter, more effective treatment regimens. The WHO's recommended treatment regimen for drug-resistant TB now consists of just six to nine months of therapy, compared to the previous regimen, which could last up to two years. This shorter treatment regimen is not only more effective, but it also helps to reduce the risk of patients abandoning treatment due to its prolonged duration.

  • Personalized Treatment - With the advent of newer diagnostic tools and techniques, it has become possible to personalize treatment for patients with drug-resistant TB. This includes using the patient's drug-resistance profile to guide the selection of drugs and the duration of treatment.

  • Combination Therapy - To improve efficiency and shorten the duration of treatment, combination therapy has been proposed to treat drug-resistant TB. This approach involves using multiple drugs with different mechanisms of action, which can help improve treatment outcomes and reduce the risk of further resistance.

  • Adjunctive Therapy - Adjunctive therapy uses non-anti-TB drugs in combination with anti-TB drugs to improve treatment outcomes. This includes using drugs such as steroids, vitamin D, and immunomodulators to reduce inflammation, improve patient outcomes and reduce the risk of relapse.

  • Host-Directed Therapy - Host-directed therapy is a new approach that targets the host's immune response to TB infection. This includes using drugs that modulate the host immune response, such as interferon-gamma, to improve treatment outcomes and reduce the risk of relapse.

  • Community-Based Treatment- Community-based treatment has been proposed as an alternative to hospital-based treatment for drug-resistant TB. This approach involves using trained community health workers to provide treatment and support to patients in their homes, which can help improve adherence to treatment and reduce the risk of relapse.

  • Telemedicine -Telemedicine, the use of telecommunication and information technologies to provide healthcare services remotely, has been proposed to improve the management of drug-resistant TB in resource-limited settings. This approach can help to improve access to care and reduce the risk of transmission of drug-resistant TB.

Conclusion

Advances in the diagnosis and management of drug-resistant TB have been observed in recent years. The development of rapid molecular tests and new drugs, as well as the implementation of shorter and more effective treatment regimens, have all contributed to improving the outcomes of patients with drug-resistant TB. However, more work is needed to ensure that these advances are accessible to all patients and to address the underlying social and economic factors contributing to the disease's development and spread. Therefore, it is important to keep working in this field to improve the lives of millions of patients suffering from this disease.

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Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar
Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar

Pulmonology (Asthma Doctors)

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