New tuberculosis medicine may be on the way

July 02, 2012

Roughly one-third of the world's population is estimated to be infected with the bacteria causing tuberculosis. As KJZZ's Lynn Kelly reports, a research division of Johnson & Johnson is seeking U.S. approval for the first new type of medicine to fight deadly TB.

 LYNN KELLY: TB is rare in the U.S. but kills about 1.4 million people a year worldwide.  And the experimental drug bedaquiline would be the first drug specifically for treating multidrug-resistant-TB which is becoming more common.  Johnson & Johnson will begin late-stage testing this fall. Dr. Cara Christ from the Arizona Department of Health Services says there very specific risk factors -- being foreign-born from a country with a high prevalence in TB such as Central & South America, South East Asia & Africa. But a little closer to home, we see another population at risk.

CARA CHRIST: We see a lot of TB in our correctional facilities, that's another risk factor. Or people who have been in these close, congregate settings are going to have a higher risk factor for getting TB also.

KELLY: In the United States, the national average of TB infection is 3.5 to 4 per 100,000 people. Arizona has a slightly higher rate of TB than the national average, it is 4.4 per 100,000 this year but according to Dr. Christ the number is still very, very low.

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