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Artificial intelligence enabled parabolic response surface platform identifies ultra-rapid near-universal TB drug treatment regimens comprising approved drugs.



Shorter, more effective treatments for tuberculosis (TB) are urgently needed. While many TB drugs are available, identification of the best regimens is challenging because of the large number of possible drug-dose combinations. We have found consistently that responses of cells or whole animals to drug-dose stimulations fit a parabolic response surface (PRS), allowing us to identify and optimize the best drug combinations by testing only a small fraction of the total search space. Previously, we used PRS methodology to identify three regimens (PRS Regimens I-III) that in murine models are much more effective than the standard regimen used to treat TB. However, PRS Regimens I and II are unsuitable for treating drug-resistant TB and PRS Regimen III includes an experimental drug. Here, we use PRS methodology to identify from an expanded pool of drugs new highly effective near-universal drug regimens comprising only approved drugs.

Methods and findings

We evaluated combinations of 15 different drugs in a human macrophage TB model and identified the most promising 4-drug combinations. We then tested 14 of these combinations in Mycobacterium tuberculosis-infected BALB/c mice and chose for PRS dose optimization and further study the two most potent regimens, designated PRS Regimens IV and V, consisting of clofazimine (CFZ), bedaquiline (BDQ), pyrazinamide (PZA), and either amoxicillin/clavulanate (AC) or delamanid (DLM), respectively. We then evaluated the efficacy in mice of optimized PRS Regimens IV and V, as well as a 3-drug regimen, PRS Regimen VI (CFZ, BDQ, and PZA), and compared their efficacy to PRS Regimen III (CFZ, BDQ, PZA, and SQ109), previously shown to reduce the time to achieve relapse-free cure in mice by 80% compared with the Standard Regimen (isoniazid, rifampicin, PZA, and ethambutol). Efficacy measurements included early bactericidal activity, time to lung sterilization, and time to relapse-free cure. PRS Regimens III-VI all rapidly sterilized the lungs and achieved relapse-free cure in 3 weeks (PRS Regimens III, V, and VI) or 5 weeks (PRS Regimen IV). In contrast, mice treated with the Standard Regimen still had high numbers of bacteria in their lungs after 6-weeks treatment and none achieved relapse-free cure in this time-period.


We have identified three new regimens that rapidly sterilize the lungs of mice and dramatically shorten the time required to achieve relapse-free cure. All mouse drug doses in these regimens extrapolate to doses that are readily achievable in humans. Because PRS Regimens IV and V contain only one first line drug (PZA) and exclude fluoroquinolones and aminoglycosides, they should be effective against most TB cases that are multidrug resistant (MDR-TB) and many that are extensively drug-resistant (XDR-TB). Hence, these regimens have potential to shorten dramatically the time required for treatment of both drug-sensitive and drug-resistant TB. If clinical trials confirm that these regimens dramatically shorten the time required to achieve relapse-free cure in humans, then this radically shortened treatment has the potential to improve treatment compliance, decrease the emergence of drug resistance, and decrease the healthcare burden of treating both drug-sensitive and drug-resistant TB.

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