21 October 2016

After losing her partner to XDR-TB, a 29 year old working mother is continuing her own fight against the disease.

Simbongile’s current DR-TB regimen: bedaquiline, linezolid, clofazimine, terizidone, levofloxacin, pyrazinamide.

 “My partner had XDR-TB so I probably caught it from him,” says Simbongile Xesha, a 29-year-old working mother of two who lives with her children and five other family members in Town II, Khayelitsha.

After her partner, who passed away in May 2016 – was diagnosed with XDR-TB last year, Simbongile sought help for the symptoms she was experiencing.

“Last year, end-September, I started coughing and didn’t want to eat,” she remembers. “I brought myself to the clinic and within a week, in October 2015, I started full treatment for XDR-TB which included bedaquiline.”

drug resistant tuberculosis
Sibongile Xesha during her consultation at the Town 2 Clinic, Kuyasa, Khayelitsha, Western Cape, South Africa. Photo: Sydelle WIllow Smith

“Simbongile is a model example of how we would like the majority of clinically stable DR-TB patients to be managed at a primary care level within the community,” says Dr Jennifer Hughes, MSF’s TB doctor.

“After her boyfriend was diagnosed with XDR-TB, she presented to her local clinic, was screened appropriately and quickly diagnosed with XDR-TB, taking advantage of the rapid diagnostic tools that we have available here.”

After diagnosis, Simbongile was immediately identified as eligible to receive bedaquiline and linezolid through the Department of Health’s bedaquiline access programme, and an application was submitted.

“Once approved, her medication was delivered from the specialist TB hospital to her local clinic so that she was able to start effective treatment for XDR-TB within only a few weeks of presenting to clinic for TB screening,” says Dr Hughes.

Drug resistant tuberculosis
Simbongile’s current DR-TB regimen: Bedaquiline, linezolid, clofazimine, terizidone, levofloxacin, pyrazinamide. 

“Instead of long term admission or hours of travel to a hospital, she’s getting her treatment regularly from her local primary care clinic.”

“I know from Dr Jenny that many patients need bedaquiline. I didn’t have to wait and was taking bedaquiline from the first day of treatment. I think that’s why my sputum started to change so quickly. I stick to my treatment, same time every day and I go to a support group.” Simbongile says.

Her sputum cultures have now converted to negative, Dr Hughes says, indicating that the treatment is working and there are no longer active TB bacteria growing in her lungs.

Today Simbongile says she is happy living with her mother, two sisters and all their children.

“I work as a cashier at a frozen yoghurt place in Khayelitsha. I feel great. I’ve been taking bedaquiline for six months now.  I take all the tablets at the same time. The medication makes me very nauseous and knocks me out for one or two hours. But it makes me strong too,” she says.

Find out more about MSF's work in South Africa.