Patients suffering from tuberculosis (TB) may recover sooner rather than later, following a recent study, which reduced the estimated six months of TB treatment time to four months.

The antibiotic moxifloxacin, added to the usual TB drugs, shortened the patients’ treatment time by two months, following tests conducted by Johns Hopkins University scientists in Brazil of 170 men and women with active TB in Rio de Janeiro.

All were given three standard anti-TB drugs plus moxifloxacin or a slightly older drug, ethambutol. The antibiotic moxifloxacin, added to the usual TB drugs, reduced the treatment time for 85 percent of the patients, compared to the 68 percent of volunteers, who were on ethambutol.

Additional studies also showed a significant cut in treatment time. A second study also cured mice of TB in 10 weeks with higher doses of moxifloxacin plus the TB drug rifapentine, and a third study of about 400 TB patients in Africa resulted in 60 percent of volunteers testing negative for TB after two months compared to 55 percent given other medications, including isoniazid.

"It sounds fantastic," said Dr. Melvin Spigelman, research and development director for the nonprofit Global Alliance for TB Drug Development in New York. "The science is there" and just needs to be verified in larger studies, he said.

The group will launch another 2,400-patient study later this year.