Stellenbosch’s $18.9m grant agreement to develop child-friendly treatments for TB

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Stellenbosch University and UNITAID have signed a $ 18.9m grant agreement to develop child-friendly treatments and preventive therapy for treating multidrug-resistant TB in children. The agreement was announced at the 50th Union World Conerence on Lung Health (WCOLH) in Hyderabad, India. The conference is convened by the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union).

More than 95% of children with MDR-TB do not currently receive treatment. For those who do, the treatment regimens are long, bad-tasting, toxic, and often cause severe side effects such as irreversible hearing loss. Children are typically treated mostly with adult tablets that need to be crushed.

The Better Evidence and Formulations for Improved MDR-TB Treatment for Children (BENEFIT Kids) project, will increase access to quality-assured MDR-TB medicines that are adapted to children by bringing child-friendly treatment formulations and preventive therapies that taste better and are appropriate for children; strengthen the evidence on optimal dosing, safety, efficacy, acceptability and costs of using these regimens; and shaping the market for better child-friendly formulations.

The project will be implemented in three countries: South Africa, India and the Philippines. Stellenbosch University will work with partners TB Alliance, University of California San Francisco, De La Salle University Medical Centre, Johns Hopkins University, BJ Medical College, Uppsala University and Chiang Mai University.

“Children have the same rights to health that adults do, and yet children with drug-resistant TB are widely neglected,” said José Luis Castro, executive director of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease. “Every child affected by TB has a right to receive care that is entirely appropriate for them.”

The Union World Conference is the world’s largest gathering of clinicians, policy makers, public health managers, researchers and advocates working to end the suffering caused by lung disease, with a focus specifically on the challenges faced by low- and middle-income countries. Some 3,500 delegates from over 80 countries are attending the event.

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