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New TB drug discovered

A new antibiotic could prove to be an important weapon in the fight against tuberculosis, scientists predict.

Known as R207910, the new drug has been tested in mice and has been proven safe in human volunteers. The antibiotic was discovered by the Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical team and belongs to a family of drugs called the diarylquinolines or DARQs.

Belgian researchers writing in Science magazine predict that the antibiotic could shorten treatment times and battle strains of TB resistant to other antibiotics.

TB rates have increased in recent years across the world and is now second only to Aids as the leading cause of death from infectious disease. The disease infects a third of the world's population, but many people never develop TB.

No new TB drugs have been introduced in more than 30 years, but a number of possible therapies are now being tested. Current drug treatments require patients to take as many as six tablets for six to nine months.

There are an estimated ten million new cases of TB each year, and about two million deaths from TB worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Many strains of TB are becoming increasingly drug resistant. However, experts have warned that it could be ten years before any new drugs become available.

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