World TB Day stresses importance of progresses to fight disease

Underreported cases and treatment abandonment during Covid-19 pandemic is an issue to WHO

24/03/2021 - 13h55

Photo: Pexels

On March 24, the World Tuberculosis Day, a date established by the World Health Organization in 1982, is celebrated all over the world. It is estimated that about a quarter of the world’s population is infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB), the main causative agent of tuberculosis in humans. This contagious disease is one of the top 10 causes of death all over the world and the leading cause of death from a single infectious agent.

The 21st century has seen many innovations in terms of tuberculosis treatment. After a long period without new therapeutic alternatives on the market, the last decade has seen three new drugs being approved for use: Bedaquilina (2012), Delamanid (2014) and Pretomanid (2019), which is used in the treatment of tuberculosis caused by resistant strains. However, the adaptive capacity of mycobacteria that can develop resistant strains rapidly as well as safety problems from the use of some of these drugs demonstrates that new therapeutic alternatives for the treatment of TB should still be a high priority on the global health agenda.

Latest treatments have proven to have a success rate of 57%. In addition, about 85% of people who develop tuberculosis can be successfully treated with a 6-month drug regimen for drug-sensitive tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis and Covid-19

According to the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic is a major threat that will likely reverse the gains obtained in recent years in the fight against tuberculosis. Data collected by WHO in countries with large numbers of TB cases showed sharp declines in notifications of new cases in 2020.

WHO modeling suggests that a 50% drop in TB case detection in just 3 months could result in an additional 400,000 deaths from the disease in 2020 alone. In response, WHO is struggling to support countries in their endeavor to continue working on essential health services, including for tuberculosis.

This year’s campaign, promoted by the organization, has the theme Time is passing by. It is calling for more actions from government leaders and the private sector companies through prevention, diagnosis, treatment and incentives for research to eradicate the disease by 2030.

INCT-TB Actions

Photo: Gilson Oliveira

Since 2008, PUCRS has been home to National Institute of Science and Technology in Tuberculosis (INCT-TB) at the Center for Research into Molecular Biology (CPBMF) of School of Health and Life Sciences. INCT-TB has developed research to add up to the drugs used for the treatment of tuberculosis.

By using strategies based on molecular targets derived from biochemical routes essential for the viability of the bacillus or structurally optimizing chemical compounds from phenotypic screening data, the group has obtained promising molecules. “More than writing scientific articles and providing training for specialized human resources, this study has been speeding up the pace of applications for intellectual protection from the institution”, Pablo Machado, a INCT-TB researcher, comments.

Since 2019, PUCRS has been filing at least one patent at the National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI) every year, as it describes molecules with a high capacity to inhibit their growth and with elucidated mechanisms of action. “The potential of some of the structures developed by the CPBMF is higher than 100 times the capacity to inhibit drugs such as isoniazid, used as the first line of treatment for tuberculosis. These findings have created the expectation that the study developed at PUCRS can be materialized into therapeutic innovations for the treatment”, the researcher adds.