Health experts are hopeful that children suffering from tuberculosis (TB) will have increased chances of survival when new fruit-flavored medicines will roll out in early 2016. The World Health Organization (WHO) said that 140,000 children died of TB in 2014.

The absence of market incentives for the development of TB medication for children contributes to the continuous infection of about one million children, according to TB Alliance Group. There are quite a number of children suffering from TB who fail to complete the drug treatment due to bitter-tasting medications given daily for a period of six months at the very least.

Inaccurate dosage also affects the increasing rate of infection as parents needed to crush adult-sized tablets to give the estimated dosage for children. When patients fail to complete the months-long treatment, they will succumb to the illness again. To address this problem among children, three major TB drugs in soluble, child-sized doses will be available in early 2016.

"It will make it so much easier for a child and a parent or caregiver to make sure the child takes the treatment and takes it religiously for the full time," said TB Alliance executive officer Mel Spigelman who likened the new drugs to 'drinking a fruit-flavored drink'.

Annually, there are about 32,000 children who catch fatal TB strains that are drug-resistant. The bacteria are often transmitted through sneezes and coughs of people with untreated TB. More often than not, it comes from family members or friends. Children who are TB survivors risk the possibility of becoming mentally disabled, blind, deaf and even paralyzed.

In 2014, 10 million people caught TB leading to 1.5 million deaths. The rate exceeded those 1.2 million HIV/AIDS-related deaths, according to WHO. There are many cases where HIV and TB co-exist. HIV patient's compromised immune system makes them more vulnerable to the TB bacteria. To date, Africa has the most number of TB patients, garnering 400,000 new cases annually.

"TB is always concentrated among the poorest of the poor," Spigelman added that the bacteria spread quickly in areas with poor nutrition and sanitation. People in poverty-stricken areas cannot afford TB medications which results in the non-development of treatment from the pharmaceutical companies. Spigelman added that TB is a disease that has been terribly neglected and is "probably the quintessential disease of poverty."

Photo: CDC Global | Flickr

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