University of St Andrews leads new TB data-sharing platform

Data collected from one of the largest tuberculosis (TB) clinical drugs trials, lead by the University of St Andrews, has been released as part of a new data-sharing platform. The trial, completed in 2014, sought to investigate whether moxifloxacin, an antibacterial drug used in the treatment of pneumonia and bronchitis [1], could be used as a substitute for one of the current first-line TB drugs.

One of the driving factors behind this study was that the length of current treatment options can be six months, which results in many patients failing to complete the antibiotics prescribed. This failure to complete antibiotics is a leading cause in the rise of multi-drug resistant bacteria, including TB [2]. The trial found that moxifloxacin substitution killed TB bacteria faster than the previous treatment regime, but not enough to shorten the therapy to four months, as the team had originally hoped. Despite this, the trial provided excellent insights into the treatment of TB, with chief investigator of the study, Professor Stephen Gillespie, stating: “The quality and amount of the data from this trial will advance the entire TB research field, and improve future trials.”


Nearly 10 million people were killed by TB in 2014.

The data from this study, alongside data collected from other institutions, including a tropical disease research unit as part of the World Health Organisation (WHO), has recently been released as part of a new data-sharing platform [3]. This database, dubbed the TB-Platform for Aggregation of Clinical TB Studies (TB-PACTS), will allow researchers in the field to access data from previous TB drug trials, including the one carried out in 2014. It is hoped that combining mass amounts of data into one system will allow researchers to explore patterns in TB patients drug responses that would not otherwise be clear from smaller data sets.

Ultimately, it is hoped that this collaboration will result in the development of new TB medicines. TB is one of the top infectious killers across the global, killing 1.5 million people in 2014 alone and with almost 10 million new cases reported each year [4]. Whilst this data-sharing is just one step towards finding more effective, shorter drug regimes for these patients, it is certainly an important and exciting one. Professor Gillespie highlights this: “By sharing patient-level data with researchers around the globe we will multiply the value of the data that has been donated by patients to clinical trials – maximising the significance of their contributions to battling TB.”


[1] Medline Plus: Moxifloxacin 

[2] University of St Andrews News (2014): TB drug trial paves the way for future progress

[3] University of St Andrews News (2016): Accelerating TB research

[4] WHO (2016): Tuberculosis Fact Sheet 

Image 1: University of St Andrews News (2016): Accelerating TB research

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