New Study Could Provide Vastly Better Outcome for HIV Patients With TB

Researchers from Cambodia, France and the US yesterday announced the results of a study conducted here that showed a sharp reduction in mortality among HIV patients who are infected with tuberculosis, a finding that could pave the way to a new protocol in treating such so-called co-infections.

The researchers, who spent four years studying 661 Cambodian patients co-infected with HIV and TB, found that mortality dropped by 34 percent when patients began treatment of HIV for two weeks, rather than eight weeks, after starting TB treatment.

The results of the study, which was conducted by the local NGO Cambodian Health Committee in collaboration with health agencies from France and the US, were presented yesterday at the 8th International AIDS Conference in Vienna.

“This could translate into significant impact on mortality due to co-infection globally,” study author and CHC co-founder Anne Goldfeld wrote in an e-mail yesterday.

“The other part of the story,” she continued, “is that […] a high-level international trial co-sponsored by the [US National Institutes of Health] and the French [National Agency for Research on AIDS and Viral Hepatitis] was conducted in Cambodia, where basically no infrastructure existed previously, by nesting the research in the grassroots outreach delivery of care networks of the Cambodian Health Committee.”

Tuberculosis is currently the leading cause of death for HIV/AIDS patients worldwide, and co-infection in Cambodia grew from 2.5 percent in 1995 to 10 percent in 2005, according to a 2007 World Health Organization bulletin.

“The treatment of co-infected HIV and TB patients is really complicated and challenging,” said Mao Tan Eang, director of the Ministry of Health’s National Center for TB and Leprosy.

“Previously we didn’t have accurate information because no formal study had been conducted, but [this] is a new finding that is accurate and technically important, a new discovery.”

Mr Tan Eang added that the researchers and health officials were also hoping to introduce the new protocol outside Cambodia.

“This answer comes from the grassroots and the suffering of Cambodia, and it will relieve the suffering of countless people throughout the world afflicted by TB and AIDS,” said Ministry of Health Secretary of State Eng Huot in a statement released by CHC yesterday. “This gives us much satisfaction.”


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