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Better Control of TB Seen If a Faster Cure Is Found

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

The World Health Organization estimates that about one-third of all people are infected with bacteria that cause tuberculosis. Most times, the infection remains inactive. But each year about eight million people develop active cases of TB, usually in their lungs. Two million people die from it.

The disease has increased with the spread of AIDS and drug-resistant forms of tuberculosis.

Current treatments take at least six months. People have to take a combination of several antibiotic drugs daily. But many people stop as soon as they feel better. Doing that can lead to an infection that resists treatment.

Public health experts agree that a faster-acting cure for tuberculosis would be more effective. Now a study estimates just how effective it might be.

A professor of international health at Harvard University led the study. Joshua Salomon says a shorter treatment program would likely mean not just more patients cured. It would also mean fewer infectious patients who can pass on their infection to others.

The researchers developed a mathematical model to examine the effects of a two-month treatment plan. They tested the model with current TB conditions in Southeast Asia.

The scientists found that a two-month treatment could prevent about twenty percent of new cases. And it might prevent about twenty-five percent of TB deaths.

The model shows that these reductions would take place between two thousand twelve and two thousand thirty. That is, if a faster cure is developed and in wide use by two thousand twelve.

The World Health Organization developed the DOTS program in nineteen ninety. DOTS is Directly Observed Treatment, Short-course. Health workers watch tuberculosis patients take their daily pills to make sure they continue treatment.

Earlier this year, an international partnership of organizations announced a plan to expand the DOTS program. The ten-year plan also aims to finance research into new TB drugs. The four most common drugs used now are more than forty years old. The Global Alliance for TB Drug Development says its long-term goal is a treatment that could work in as few as ten doses.

And that's the VOA Special English Development Report, written by Jill Moss. The new study appears in Public Library of Science Medicine. This is an online research publication that can be read for free at p-l-o-s dot o-r-g. And you can read transcripts of our reports and listen online at This is Shep O'Neal.