LA BioMed Scientist Works on Shorter, More Effective Treatment for HIV and Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis

Dr. Richard Murphy is studying a new approach that shows promise for two deadly diseases


LOS ANGELES — Patients infected with both HIV and multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) have historically had an uphill battle with low success rates and high mortality. Making things worse, until recently, the therapy for MDR-TB has been difficult, involving months of painful injections. But there’s a promising new oral treatment regimen for MDR-TB that could make a huge difference to patients in resource-limited settings.

Dr. Richard Murphy, an investigator at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute (LA BioMed), is leading a team studying this new short-course regimen to determine why some patients are achieving success –with the intent of creating more effective treatments for everyone.

To accomplish that goal, Dr. Murphy and his collaborator, South African physician Thiloshini Govender, are comparing patients co-infected with HIV and MDR-TB who have not responded to treatment with those who have responded in order to better understand what’s working. Pill burden could be an important factor, so to determine if patients are having trouble keeping up with the demands of treatment, the team is using dried blood spot to monitor drug levels and estimate adherence. Dried blood spots are minimally invasive and allow specimens to be safely stored even in tropical climates.

A major advantage of this short-course program is that it requires fewer interactions with the formal health care sector for injections. Reducing visits to clinics may be a good thing both for patients with MDR-TB as well as for other immunocompromised patients at clinics who are at risk for MDR-TB exposure. 

“Patients suffering from HIV and MDR-TB face a difficult path back to health, but this new therapy could make things much easier,” Dr. Murphy said. “It is critical to study why some patients succeed and others do not, so that we can continue to improve treatment outcomes and reduce community TB transmission.”

Dr. Murphy’s cohort study is funded by a grant from the UCLA AIDS Institute and Center for AIDS Research. Earlier this summer, he and his team began the study of MDR-TB and HIV co-infected patients in South Africa at a hospital outside of Durban, South Africa.

LA BioMed has been responsible for innovations that have revolutionized health care worldwide, such as the invention of paramedic training protocols. Dr. Murphy’s work is another example of the wide reach of LA BioMed’s research.

“Dr. Murphy’s research could save thousands of lives,” said David Meyer, PhD, President and CEO, LA BioMed. “We are so proud of our investigators who consistently look to help those in need.”