“When I told my wife that I was going to be hospitalized for a long time, she couldn’t stop crying.” Bonginkosi Emmanuel Mkhize is a 32-year-old refrigerator mechanic based in Durban, South Africa. He is the 240th patient to participate in the MSF study. The aim of this research: to find a new cure for resistant tuberculosis.
Durban is the largest city in the KwaZulu-Natal province, on the east coast of South Africa. It is known as a surfer’s mecca. And it is the city with one of the largest commercial seaports in the world. KwaZula-Natal province is the second province in South Africa in terms of population (10.3 million people). Unfortunately, the deadly contagious disease tuberculosis is common here: 1 in 10,000 inhabitants suffers from tuberculosis. The resistant variety has a firm foothold here.
Need stronger treatment
Resistant tuberculosis is resistant to antibiotics that are used as standard against tuberculosis. This means that stronger medicines must be used. This standard treatment consists of chemotherapy for up to two years. Patients have to take 20 pills a day and have a painful injection into the buttock muscle every day for six months. The side effects are very serious: from predominant nausea, severe vomiting, kidney failure, to deafness and psychosis. And that for a cure rate of 50%.
New cure for resistant tuberculosis
Our teams see how this standard treatment is driving people to despair and turning the lives of entire families upside down. That is why we have started a study, called TB-PRACTECAL, into a new treatment. One that is better and shorter. Which is much more bearable for people because the side effects are less severe, without painful injections and where they only have to swallow 5 pills. New combinations of drugs are being tested against the standard course. And for that, our teams need people with drug-resistant TB who are willing to participate in the study. Not an easy decision, but Bonginkosi decided to participate.
Six years ago it turned out that his older sister had become infected with drug-resistant tuberculosis. ‘We were not allowed to visit her. She passed away. She was only just 30 years old. We grew up together, it was always the two of us together. I was devastated by the loss. She was my big sister. And then it turned out that I had it too. It didn’t surprise me. I was so very sick, just like her.’
His wife was sad, but understands his decision to participate in the investigation, Bonginkosi said. My whole family comes to visit and support me. In fact, I got my whole family tested for tuberculosis. And I tell everyone I meet to get checked. ‘
For my children
Because the consequences of resistant tuberculosis on his life, like those of other patients, are great. ‘I love my wife and my children. But I can’t be with them now. And I can’t work, so I don’t bring in any income. All the result of tuberculosis. It is difficult.’ Taking part in the study gives him hope: ‘A shorter treatment would make a world of difference for me and other people like me. I participate for the future of my children. ‘
And we have good news! Bonginkosi is now healed and he is doing very well.