Thursday, February 25, 2010

Study says to treat tuberculosis and AIDS at the same time

A new study about treating tuberculosis and AIDS has already changed treatment guidelines from the World Heath Organization. A study conducted in South Africa finds that patients who have both tuberculosis and AIDS have a better survival rate if the diseases are treated at the same time.

Most doctors have been choosing to treat TB first, because of drug side effects and adverse interactions. AIDS patients have to take a large number of pills to fight AIDS, while TB only requires one. Another reason that tuberculosis is ofter treated first is simply because tuberculosis can be diagnosed immediately, while an AIDS diagnosis waits for test results from a lab.

From this Reuters article, writer Gene Emery details the study's results further. The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

About 33 million people worldwide are infected with HIV, the AIDS virus, and 9.2 million have recently been diagnosed with lung-destroying tuberculosis, according to the World Health Organization.

In many cases, HIV's suppression of the immune system allows the deadly tuberculosis bacterium to thrive. In South Africa, about 73 percent of TB patients also have HIV.

Yet doctors have been reluctant to treat both at once, often choosing to go after TB first. They have been concerned about drug interactions, overlapping side effects and the large number of pills that patients have to take each day.

They tested more than 600 patients with both TB and HIV.

The death rate was 5.4 percent a year for the volunteers who got treatment for both infections, compared with 12.1 percent for those whose TB was treated first, with HIV therapy beginning about six months later.

The results were so convincing that they already prompted the WHO to change its guidelines to call for treating both conditions at the same time.

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