Background: Malnourished and young children are particularly susceptible to severe forms of tuberculosis and poor treatment response. WHO dosing guidelines for drugs for tuberculosis treatment are based only on weight, which might lead to systematic underdosing and poor outcomes in these children. We aimed to assess and quantify the population effect of WHO guidelines for drug-susceptible tuberculosis in children in the 20 countries with the highest disease burden. Methods: We used an integrated model that linked country-specific demographic data at the individual level from the 20 countries with the highest disease burden to pharmacokinetic, outcome, and epidemiological models. We estimated tuberculosis treatment outcomes in children younger than 5 years following WHO guidelines (children are dosed by weight bands corresponding to the number of fixed-dose combination tablets [75 mg rifampicin, 50 mg isoniazid, 150 mg pyrazinamide]) and two alternative dosing strategies: one based on a proposed algorithm that uses age, weight, and available formulations, in which underweight children would receive the same drug doses as would normal weight children of the same age; and another based on an individualised algorithm without dose limitations, in which derived doses results in target exposure attainment for the typical child. Findings: We estimated that 57 234 (43%) of 133 302 children younger than 5 years who were treated for tuberculosis in 2017 were underdosed with WHO dosing and only 47% of children would reach the rifampicin exposure target. Underdosing and subtherapeutic exposures were more common among malnourished children than among age-matched healthy children. The proposed dosing approach improved estimated rifampicin target exposure attainment to 62% and equalised outcomes by nutritional status. An estimated third of unfavourable treatment outcomes might be resolved with this dosing strategy, saving the lives of a minimum of 2423 children in these countries annually. With individualised dosing approaches, almost all children could achieve adequate exposure for cure. Interpretation: This work shows that a simple change in dosing procedure to include age and nutritional status, requiring no additional measurements or new drug formulations, is one approach to improve tuberculosis treatment outcomes in children, especially malnourished children who are at high risk of mortality. Funding: Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and UK Medical Research Council.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Developmental and Educational Psychology