TB treatments should be individualized, study says

Research by the UT Southwestern Medical Center indicates that the dosage and type of medications used to treat children with tuberculosis should be individualized for each young patient in order to increase effectiveness.

Currently recommended doses are much too low, according to the findings, which are available online and in the February issue of Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. The study shows that a child’s weight, medical history and age are among the factors that can affect his or her response to particular drugs used to fight the tuberculosis-causing mycobacterium, reports.

"Children are growing and changing and, unlike in adults, Mycobacterium tuberculosis manifests itself in children as many different diseases, causing problems all over the body," Dr. Tawanda Gumbo, associate professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern and the study's lead author, said, according to "Since their immune systems are not yet fully developed, you also have to take into consideration whether a particular drug will reach the part of the body affected by the disease. If you aggregate all these factors – age, weight, medical history, disease process – it's pretty clear that you need to treat each child differently instead of following the standard dosing guidelines."

For the study, researchers simulated clinical trials among 10,000 patients who were 10 years of age or younger. The simulation determined that the drug concentrations were too low and they responded different depending on age and how fast their bodies metabolized the drug.

"Despite the desire for standardized therapy, our findings support the long-held notion that there is no 'average' or 'standard' child,” Gumbo said, reports. “It is safe to assume that with 2.2 billion children worldwide, there will be 2.2 billion different regimens needed to effectively treat tuberculosis.”

One-third of the world’s population is infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which leads to two million deaths from the disease each year. Treatment for the disease can last anywhere from between six and 12 months.