Nhlanhla Mshengu, who hails from uMgababa south of Durban in KwaZulu-Natal, was a participant in the TB PRACTECAL study, a clinical trial led by Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders which the Clinical HIV Research Unit (CHRU) took part in. The results of the clinical trial were released on World TB Day last month and marked a giant step forward in the search for new shorter, more tolerable and effective treatments for people with drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB). Mshengu believes that he is proof that the treatment regimen tested during the trial does indeed work.
“I was diagnosed at my local clinic and put on TB treatment. I suffered a lot because my condition would stay the same for months. I had given up hope and thought I would never survive. It was then discovered that I had multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB). I was referred to King Dinuzulu Hospital where CHRU has a research site and enrolled in the TB PRACTECAL clinical trial. I was put in the group which got the new treatment. My condition improved drastically. It took me only one month to get out of bed and return to my workplace.”
The healthcare workers explained to Mshengu how the trial worked and told him to avoid stress so the treatment could work properly. He visited the clinic regularly for regular check-ups and tests. After about three months, he was told that his health had gradually returned to normal. He was then moved to another stage of the trial for follow-up.“Trial procedures are not difficult and one does not spend a lot of time at the clinic. A visit can easily last 30 minutes,” he says.
“I started encouraging other patients to participate, especially because of the oral treatment as opposed to the injections we were getting previously. The injections were not comfortable and the treatment took too long which led to many people defaulting from treatment. Even though I now feel healthy now, I still follow the trial processes by adhering to treatment and turning up for follow up visits. My plea to all those, like me in the past, who have lost hope in the health system to believe once again and give it a try. There are so many people in our community that have MDR-TB but are reluctant to seek help. I urge them to take the opportunity to be treated when they are called to participate,” says Mshengu.
Mshengu cites the high standards of professionalism of the clinical trial staff. He believes confidentiality was maintained, making it easy for him to answer questions. “The team at the hospital had a hand in getting me where I am today. My family is happy and I can see a bright future ahead. I attribute this to all of their assistance in getting my life back. I thank them dearly.”
The TB PRACTECAL study found that a new all-oral six-month treatment regimen is safer and more effective at treating rifampicin-resistant tuberculosis (RR-TB) than the current accepted standard of care.