Peru pioneers new treatment for drug-resistant TB — a photo story

How next generation regimens could turn the tide on multidrug-resistant TB

Peru is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Its capital, Lima, tucked between the Pacific Ocean and surrounding valleys, bustles with trendy restaurants, cafés, museums, shops, and lots of traffic.

Close to 10 million people live in Lima today and the population is growing. But most of Lima’s 43 districts remain poor. These communities face a growing health threat — multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB)

Tuberculosis, a highly contagious airborne disease, thrives in overcrowded places with poor ventilation, like in the slums of El Agustino.

The endTB project is expanding access to a new generation of MDR-TB treatment, featuring an all-oral regimen with fewer side effects and increased adherence.

Hugo, 16, has been fighting extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) for two years. He abandoned treatment after a year because of the severe side effects he had from an injectable drug, but started on a new treatment with the support of Socios en Salud, the Peruvian office of Partners in Health.

Hugo is lucky to be taking part in endTB’s observational study on bedaquiline and delamanid, the first new TB drugs developed in 50 years.

Nowadays, Hugo is feeling much better. His new treatment is less toxic and includes the cutting-edge drug bedaquiline.

“I want to become a human rights lawyer when I grow up to help people who cannot help themselves,” says Hugo.

The endTB project is also undertaking a clinical trial to test shorter MDR-TB regimens with the new drugs bedaquiline and delamanid. The new MDR-TB regimen would cut the treatment time from two years to nine months.

Humberto Guerrero Sandoval, a 50-year old bus station worker, joined the endTB clinical trial in Peru after abandoning his previous treatment for MDR-TB. He was cured of the disease after completing a new, nine-month, injection-free regimen.

Humberto is very grateful for the care he received from Merilyn, a Socios en Salud health worker, who visited him daily to ensure he took his treatment. His greatest hope now is to stay TB-free.

Socios en Salud rolled out the endTB project in Peru in 2016 to help patients with MDR-TB access new, better regimens. “We see the suffering of patients every single day. They need treatment that is less toxic and shorter so they can get on with their lives,” says executive director Dr Leonid Lecca.

Our video story from Peru

The new, all-oral regimen for MDR-TB is a ground-breaking innovation that cuts treatment time from two years to nine months, increases adherence and reduces resistance to drugs.

The endTB project is implemented in 17 countries by Partners In Health, Médecins Sans Frontières and Interactive Research and Development with support from Unitaid.