Prospective evaluation of the effectiveness of the WHO-recommended standardized retreatment regimen for tuberculosis by Edward Jones-López and colleagues reveals an unacceptable proportion of unsuccessful outcomes.
Each year, 10%–20% of patients with tuberculosis (TB) in low- and middle-income countries present with previously treated TB and are empirically started on a World Health Organization (WHO)-recommended standardized retreatment regimen. The effectiveness of this retreatment regimen has not been systematically evaluated.
Methods and Findings
From July 2003 to January 2007, we enrolled smear-positive, pulmonary TB patients into a prospective cohort to study treatment outcomes and mortality during and after treatment with the standardized retreatment regimen. Median time of follow-up was 21 months (interquartile range 12–33 months). A total of 29/148 (20%) HIV-uninfected and 37/140 (26%) HIV-infected patients had an unsuccessful treatment outcome. In a multiple logistic regression analysis to adjust for confounding, factors associated with an unsuccessful treatment outcome were poor adherence (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] associated with missing half or more of scheduled doses 2.39; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.10–5.22), HIV infection (2.16; 1.01–4.61), age (aOR for 10-year increase 1.59; 1.13–2.25), and duration of TB symptoms (aOR for 1-month increase 1.12; 1.04–1.20). All patients with multidrug-resistant TB had an unsuccessful treatment outcome. HIV-infected individuals were more likely to die than HIV-uninfected individuals (p<0.0001). Multidrug-resistant TB at enrolment was the only common risk factor for death during follow-up for both HIV-infected (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR] 17.9; 6.0–53.4) and HIV-uninfected (14.7; 4.1–52.2) individuals. Other risk factors for death during follow-up among HIV-infected patients were CD4<50 cells/ml and no antiretroviral treatment (aHR 7.4, compared to patients with CD4≥200; 3.0–18.8) and Karnofsky score <70 (2.1; 1.1–4.1); and among HIV-uninfected patients were poor adherence (missing half or more of doses) (3.5; 1.1–10.6) and duration of TB symptoms (aHR for a 1-month increase 1.9; 1.0–3.5).
The recommended regimen for retreatment TB in Uganda yields an unacceptable proportion of unsuccessful outcomes. There is a need to evaluate new treatment strategies in these patients.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
One-third of the world's population is currently infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes tuberculosis (TB), and 5%–10% of HIV-uninfected individuals will go on to develop disease and become infectious. The risk of progression from infection to disease in HIV infected is much higher. If left untreated, each person with active TB may infect 10 to 15 people every year, reinforcing the public health priority of controlling TB through adequate treatment. Patients with a previous history of TB treatment are a major concern for TB programs throughout the world because these patients are at a much higher risk of harboring a form of TB that is resistant to the drugs most frequently used, resulting in poorer treatment outcomes and significantly complicating current management strategies. More then 1 million people in over 90 countries need to be “re-treated” after failing, interrupting, or relapsing from previous TB treatment.
Every year, 10%–20% of people with TB in low- and middle-income countries are started on a standardized five-drug retreatment regimen as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). Yet, unlike treatment regimens for newly diagnosed TB patients, the recommended retreatment regimen (also known as the category II regimen) has never been properly evaluated in randomized clinical trials or prospective cohort studies. Rather, this regimen was recommended by experts before the current situation of widespread drug-resistant TB and HIV infection.
Why Was This Study Done?
WHO surveillance data suggest that the retreatment regimen is successful in about 70% of patients, but retrospective studies that have evaluated the regimen's efficacy showed variable treatment responses with success rates ranging from 26% to 92%. However, these studies have generally only assessed outcomes at the completion of the retreatment regimen, and few have examined the risk of TB recurrence, especially in people who are also infected with HIV and so are more likely to experience TB recurrence—an issue of particular concern in sub-Saharan Africa. Therefore, in this study based in Kampala, Uganda, the researchers conducted a prospective cohort study to assess treatment and survival outcomes in patients previously treated for TB and to identify factors associated with poor outcomes. Given the overwhelming contribution of HIV infection to death, the researchers categorized their survival analysis by HIV status.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers recruited consecutive smear-positive TB patients who were admitted to Mulago Hospital, Kampala, Uganda, for the retreatment of TB with the standard retreatment regimen between July 2003 and January 2007. Eligible patients received daily directly observed therapy and after hospital discharge, were seen every month during their 8-month TB-retreatment course. Home health visitors assessed treatment adherence through treatment card review, monthly pill counts, and patient self-report. After the completion of the retreatment regimen, patients were evaluated for TB recurrence every 3 months for a median of 21 months. The researchers then used a statistical model to identify treatment outcomes and mortality HIV-uninfected and HIV-infected patients.
The researchers found that 29/148 (20%) of HIV-uninfected and 37/140 (26%) of HIV-infected patients had an unsuccessful treatment outcome. Factors associated with an unsuccessful treatment outcome were poor adherence, HIV infection, increasing age, and duration of TB symptoms. All patients with multidrug resistant TB, a form of TB that is resistant to the two most important drugs used to treat TB, had an unsuccessful treatment outcome. In addition, HIV-infected subjects were more likely to die than HIV-uninfected subjects (p<0.0001), and having multidrug resistant TB at enrollment was the only common risk factor for death during follow-up for both HIV-infected and HIV uninfected patients. Other risk factors for death among HIV-infected patients were CD4<50 cells/ml and no antiretroviral therapy treatment and among HIV-uninfected patients were poor adherence and duration of TB symptoms.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The researchers found that although 70%–80% of patients had a successful treatment outcome on completion of antituberculous therapy (a result that compares well with retrospective studies), the standard retreatment regimen had low treatment response rates and was associated with poor long-term outcomes in certain subgroups of patients, particularly those with multidrug resistant TB and HIV.
These findings indicate that the standard retreatment approach to TB as implemented in low- and middle-income settings is inadequate and stress the importance of a new, more effective, strategies. Improved access to rapid diagnostics for TB drug-resistance, second-line TB treatment, and antiretroviral therapy is urgently needed, along with a strong evidence base to guide clinicians and policy makers on how best to use these tools.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000427.
The World Health Organization has information on TB, TB retreatment, and multidrug-resistant TB
WHO also provides information on TB/HIV coinfection
The Stop TB Partnership provides information on the global plan to stop TB