Tuberculosis is the leading infectious cause of death worldwide, with 9·6 million cases and 1·5 million deaths reported in 2014. WHO estimates 480,000 cases of these were multidrug resistant (MDR). Less than half of patients who entered into treatment for MDR tuberculosis successfully completed that treatment, mainly due to high mortality and loss to follow-up. These in turn illustrate weaknesses in current treatment regimens and national tuberculosis programmes, coupled with operational treatment challenges. In this Review we provide an update on recent developments in the tuberculosis drug-development pipeline (including new and repurposed antimicrobials and host-directed drugs) as they are applied to new regimens to shorten and improve outcomes of tuberculosis treatment. Several new or repurposed antimicrobial drugs are in advanced trial stages for MDR tuberculosis, and two new antimicrobial drug candidates are in early-stage trials. Several trials to reduce the duration of therapy in MDR and drug-susceptible tuberculosis are ongoing. A wide range of candidate host-directed therapies are being developed to accelerate eradication of infection, prevent new drug resistance, and prevent permanent lung injury. As these drugs have been approved for other clinical indications, they are now ready for repurposing for tuberculosis in phase 2 clinical trials. We assess risks associated with evaluation of new treatment regimens, and highlight opportunities to advance tuberculosis research generally through regulatory innovation in MDR tuberculosis. Progress in tuberculosis-specific biomarkers (including culture conversion, PET and CT imaging, and gene expression profiles) can support this innovation. Several global initiatives now provide unique opportunities to tackle the tuberculosis epidemic through collaborative partnerships between high-income countries and middle-income and low-income countries for clinical trials training and research, allowing funders to coordinate several national and regional programmes for greatest overall effect.
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