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Drug-resistant tuberculosis could be cured with autologous bone marrow stem cells

Aroud 450,000 people worldwide with forms of tuberculosis resistant to conventional treatment could benefit from autologous stem cell transplantation, i.e. they could be treated with their own bone marrow stem cells, a trial of the technique says. The finding by British and Swedish researchers could help develop a new treatment for people suffering from extensively drug-resistant or multi drug-resistant tuberculosis.

The study results were published in the medical journal The Lancet. According to them,  more than half of 30 drug-resistant participants that underwent transplantation of their own bone marrow stem cells got cured within six months. This proves that the disease, once thought incurable, can be effectively treated and thousands lives can be saved.

Tuberculosis is often falsely perceived as a disease of the past. Over the past years, world has faced a spread of drug-resistant forms of the disease that do not respond to standard treatments with antibiotics.

In a trial mentioned, 30 patients with resistant tuberculosis forms received standard antibiotic treatment and also were transplanted around 10 million of their own stem cells. The cells were derived from the bone marrow, then multiplied in the laboratory before transplantation.

Half a year follow-up has shown that the treatment was safe and most of the participants tolerated it well. Despite the trial being aimed at measuring safety, it also proved effective as much people got cured from the disease in the group that underwent stem cell transplantation compared with the group that received only antibiotics.  

The approach still needs to be tested in a more extended trial. But if it is successful, it may mean that many people could be cured from the disease that traditional methods cannot cope with.