Bone marrow stem cells could defeat drug-resistant …

Wed Jan 8, 2014 7:01pm EST

* Early study shows stem cell infusion can cure superbug TB

* Researchers say more research needed to test treatment

* Some 450,000 people worldwide have drug-resistant TB

By Kate Kelland

LONDON, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Patients with potentially fatal "superbug" forms of tuberculosis (TB) could in future be treated using stem cells taken from their own bone marrow, according to the results of an early-stage trial of the technique.

The finding, made by British and Swedish scientists, could pave the way for the development of a new treatment for the estimated 450,000 people worldwide who have multi drug-resistant (MDR) or extensively drug-resistant (XDR) TB.

In a study in The Lancet medical journal on Thursday, researchers said more than half of 30 drug-resistant TB patients treated with a transfusion of their own bone marrow stem cells were cured of the disease after six months.

"The results ... show that the current challenges and difficulties of treating MDR-TB are not insurmountable, and they bring a unique opportunity with a fresh solution to treat hundreds of thousands of people who die unnecessarily," said TB expert Alimuddin Zumla at University College London, who co-led the study.

TB, which infects the lungs and can spread from one person to another through coughing and sneezing, is often falsely thought of as a disease of the past.

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