Two-drug combination treatment cures extensively drug-resistant TB

A young girl with extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis, the most deadly form of the disease, was recently cured in Belgium through the use of a novel two-drug combination treatment.

The treatment, the first of its kind, was developed by scientists from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in the Bronx, New York. The report was recently published in Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, according to

"It was extremely rewarding to see that our in vitro biochemical studies would contribute to a successful clinical outcome for this seriously ill girl," John Blanchard, a biochemistry professor at Yeshiva University and the leader in developing the new treatment, said, according to "I applaud the courage of the Belgian physicians."

In the February 27, 2009 issue of Science, Blanchard and his colleagues reported that a combination of clavulanate and meropenem stopped the growth of certain strains of TB that were drug-susceptible, as well as XDR-TB strains that had been isolated from patients.

The drugs work in tandem. Clavulanate works by inhibiting a bacterial enzyme called beta-lactamase that normally shields TB bacteria from the antibiotic meropenem. Meropenem is a member of the beta-lactam class of antibiotics.

The combination therapy for XDR-TB has yet to be evaluated in clinical trials, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Meropenem for adult and pediatric use. Clavulanate is currently approved in combination with amoxicillin as an antibiotic, reports.

Belgian physicians began overseeing the care of the 14-year-old patient in 2010. She was acutely ill, malnourished and had not responded to standard first and second-line TB treatments.

After tests showed he TB strain was extensively drug-resistant, the physicians decided to try the combination therapy detailed in Blanchard’s Science paper.

"We had nothing to lose," Dr. Marie-Christine Payen, the leader of the Belgian team, wrote in a letter to Einstein officials, according to

After four weeks, the girl showed significant improvement, and after 11 weeks, her sputum tests were negative for TB.

The Einstein team recently filed a patent application for the combination treatment of XDR-TB to provide an incentive for drug manufacturers to support clinical trials.