New treatment offers hope for XDR-TB patient Hanna

Hanna from Ukraine is one of the first TB patients in the world to be treated with a new, groundbreaking TB treatment: the BPaL regimen. This treatment for people with extensively drug resistant tuberculosis (XDR TB) is much shorter than previous treatments. Painful, daily injections are no longer necessary. Above all, BPaL is expected to have a much higher success rate. This brings new hope to patients with this form of TB.

KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation, the local Ukranian NGO OATH, Stop TB Partnership and the National Institute of Phthisiology and Pulmonology announced the news that Ukraine is the first country to start using this new treatment developed by TB Alliance.

35-year-old Hanna is now enrolled on BPaL and grateful that she has access to this new treatment. “When I found out that I had XDR-TB, I cried and panicked. Then I was taken into treatment,” she says.

Ukraine is one of the countries in the world with a high burden of XDR-TB. However at first, Hanna found it hard to believe she had it. This form of tuberculosis is very difficult to treat because conventional medicines do not work. Hanna: “My symptoms started last July. I got a fever, over 39 degrees. I was diagnosed with bilateral pneumonia and antibiotics. After finishing that treatment a control X-ray showed no signs of improvement. Then I was referred to a TB doctor.”

The doctor diagnosed XDR-TB and Hanna was admitted immediately. Her mother is taking care of Hanna’s two children – 5-year-old Darya and 13-year-old Dmytro – while she is in the hospital. “I miss them terribly and I am worried,” says Hanna. But at the same time she is hopeful. “I look to my future with optimism and confidence, hoping for a fast recovery. I really want to return to my family as soon as possible.”

Her treatment with the BPaL regimen will last a total of six months. That is considerably shorter than the 18 to 24 months that was common for the treatment of XDR TB until now. In that treatment painful, daily injections are necessary. Only 43 percent of these patients worldwide are currently recovering, according to the World Health Organization. In the clinical trial of BPaL – without painful injections – 90 percent was cured.

Hanna: “I think I was lucky, I am happy to receive this shorter treatment without injections and I trust that I will recover quickly.”

In other countries, KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation, TB Alliance and Stop TB Partnership, among others, are also working hard to make BPaL available for XDR-TB patients. Hanna endorses how incredibly important this is. “I think all patients should have access to BPaL treatment. Everyone needs a chance for a fast recovery. And this infectious disease must not be spread and affect even more people.”

KNCV has been fighting TB since its establishment in 1903. Over the past 117 years, the organization has acquired indispensable knowledge and experience in the field of effective TB control, resulting in pre-elimination in the Netherlands and significant contributions to global evidence generation, policy development and TB program implementation worldwide.

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Tuberculosis is still one of the major causes of preventable death in the world and claims over 4000 lives a day, leading to over 1,5 million deaths a year.

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