Zimbabwe is set to roll out a Shorter, Highly-effective, Oral Regimen for Rifampicin-resistant Tuberculosis (SHORRT therapy) which reduces the length of treatment for Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR-TB) from nearly two years, to, nine to 12 months and brings a major improvement in treatment outcomes and quality of life of patients.
The nearly two-year-treatment regimen used to treat people is costly and has significant side effects.
In addition, the length of the regimen makes it hard for patients to adhere to resulting to treatment interruption, as well as for health systems to sustain.
MDR-TB is a form of TB caused by bacteria that do not respond to isoniazid and rifampicin which are the most powerful first line anti-TB medicines. It may result from not completing the first instance of TB treatment as prescribed but may also be spread from a person infected with MDR-TB through the air.
The Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) with support from World Health Organization (WHO), Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), The International Union Against TB and Lung Disease (The Union) recently conducted a situation analysis aimed at updating MDR-TB treatment guidelines. The team visited four provinces namely Manicaland, Midlands, Bulawayo and Matabeleland South where health workers raised concerns on the current treatment regimen. Side effects that include hearing loss and renal failure were pointed.
Complementing the Health Ministry’s efforts, WHO hired a consultant Dr Jennifer Furin who led the guidelines review mission.
Dr Jennifer Furin, said the new (SHORRT Therapy) will make lives better for people suffering from MDR-TB.
“This initiative will allow us to treat patients with medicines that have fewer side effects which will enable one to go back to normal life after treatment,” said Dr Furin.
She added that data show markedly improved treatment success rates when patients are treated with this (SHORRT) therapy compared to treatment with an injection containing shorter regimens or longer regimens.
“Success rates of over 8 in 10 people have been observed in use of these novel regimens in other countries,” she added.
Deputy Director for AIDS and TB Unit in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Charles Sandy said country is making frantic efforts to ensure that patients benefit from the new regimen.
“An important change is a fully oral treatment regimen with injections proposed to be replaced by more potent alternatives such as (bedaquiline) an all oral medicine,” said Dr Sandy.
Dr Sandy added that in reducing the length of treatment, patients have a better chance of finishing the entire regimen.
WHO Country Representative to Zimbabwe, Dr Alex Gasasira, commended the Health Ministry for embracing the SHORRT treatment regimen.
Dr Gasasira noted that such actions for Zimbabwe’s vision to end TB by 2030 is to be realized in line with the Global End TB Strategy and The Sustainable Development Goals.Distributed by APO Group on behalf of WHO Regional Office for Africa.