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TB PRACTECAL: Behind the groundbreaking work to beat an overlooked crisis

23 Mar 23 | 30 Mar 23

TB PRACTECAL: Behind the groundbreaking work to beat an overlooked crisis

Tuberculosis (TB) is often thought of as a disease of the past. However, in 2023, it is still one of the world’s top infectious killers.

Every year, 10 million people get sick with TB and more than two million die – often in places where access to healthcare is limited and inequality is high.

Worryingly, the disease has also become increasingly antibiotic resistant. With a dangerous strain that is unaffected by multiple ‘first line’ drugs, patients have no other option than a gruelling two-year treatment with severe side effects and only a 50 percent survival rate.

Latest story: MSF calls for urgent access to better TB testing and treatment

In the face of this overlooked humanitarian emergency, MSF scientists and public health experts could not stand back.

Thanks to the trust of our supporters, in 2017 we launched a groundbreaking clinic trial – TB PRACTECAL – working with communities across multiple countries to find a shorter, safer and more effective treatment for patients with multidrug-resistant TB.

And, last year, we did it.

At MSF's out-patient department in Batil refugee camp Gandhi Pant, a nurse, escorts a patient with a possible appendicitis to a waiting ambulance. 

Batil is one of three camps in South Sudan’s Upper Nile State sheltering at least 113,000 refugees who have crossed the border from Blue Nile state to escape fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the SPLM-North armed group. Refugees arrive at the camp with harrowing stories of being bombed out of their homes, or having their villages burned. The camps into which they have poured are on a vast floodplain, leaving many tents flooded and refugees vulnerable to disease. Mortality rates in Batil camp are at emergency levels, malnutrition rates are more than five times above emergency thresholds, and diarrhea and malarial cases are rising.

Help us prepare for the next emergency

The results of the trial have now been published in medical journals and the new treatment – a combination known as BPaLM – has been recommended by the World Health Organization to affected healthcare systems.

As we mark World TB Day on Friday 24 March, MSF is proud of this innovative project that will save lives around the world for years to come.

TB PRACTECAL: The results

A new all-oral, six-month treatment regimen is safer and more effective at treating multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) than the current options for people with drug-resistant TB (DR-TB), according to the results of an MSF study.