INTRODUCTION: Afghanistan is affected by one of the world's longest protracted armed conflicts, frequent natural disasters, disease outbreaks and large population movements and it suffers from a high burden of tuberculosis (TB), including rifampicin-resistant TB (RR-TB). The study shows Médecins Sans Frontières' experiences with care for patients with RR-TB in Kandahar Province. We describe the uptake of RR-TB treatment, how World Health Organisation criteria for the choice between the short and an individualized regimen were implemented, and treatment outcomes.
METHODS: This is a retrospective cohort analysis of routinely collected data from RR-TB patients enrolled in care from 2016 until 2019. Descriptive analysis was performed to present characteristics of patients and treatment outcomes. Multivariable Cox analysis was performed to identify risk factors for having an unfavourable treatment outcome.
RESULTS: Out of 146 enrolled RR-TB patients, 112 (76.7%) started treatment: 41 (36.6%) and 71 (63.4%) with the short and individualized treatment regimen, respectively. Of 82 with results for fluoroquinolone susceptibility, 39 (47.6%) had fluoroquinolone-resistant TB. Seven patients with initially fluoroquinolone-resistant TB and three pregnant women started the short regimen and 18 patients eligible for the short regimen started the injectable-free individualized regimen. Overall, six-month smear and culture conversion were 98.7% and 97.1%, respectively; treatment success was 70.1%. Known initial fluoroquinolone resistance (aHR 3.77, 95%CI:1.53-9.27) but not choice of regimen predicted having an unfavourable outcome.
CONCLUSION: Even though criteria for the choice of treatment regimen were not applied strictly, we have achieved acceptable outcomes in this cohort. To expand RR-TB care, treatment regimens should fit provision at primary health care level and take patient preferences into account.