Health HIV and AIDS

TB, AIDS, and malaria are finding new ways to resist treatment

Rising drug resistance has turned what public health officials call today’s Big Three infections ‘€” HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria ‘€” even more fearsome. Together, these diseases kill millions every year, representing 10 percent of all deaths globally. Worse, the trio of epidemics is tragically interconnected, with TB, for example, the leading cause of death among individuals infected with HIV.


“Drug resistance is the product of success: With treatment, we have drug resistance,” explains Eric Rubin, professor of immunology and infectious diseases at HSPH. So far, says Rubin, new drugs have helped doctors stave off the threat. A continuous stream of treatments for HIV has extended patients’ lives. More drugs for TB have entered the pharmaceutical pipeline than for any other bacterial infection. And novel anti-malarial compounds will soon enter clinical trials. “I’m optimistic about the ability to innovate. I think it will continue,” says Rubin. “But when poverty and poor access to health care occur together, resistance becomes a much bigger problem. Until brand-new drugs are widely available, a lot of people are going to die.”


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