19 June 2018

Khumbulani Shandu (16) from King Cetshwayo district in Eshowe, KwaZulu Natal, has multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). 

In 2017 he lost his hearing. In early 2018 his eyesight faded. The side effects were not from the disease but from its treatment. 

The standard treatment for MDR-TB is highly toxic. Painful daily antibiotic injections of the drug kanamycin helps save lives, but it also causes hearing loss in up to 60% of patients. That's why MSF has been campaigning for better, safer and less expensive treatment options for patients.

Other drugs in the standard treatment can cause impaired vision. Newer, better drugs do exist and they can replace the injectable. But most MDR-TB patients never access them, often because of the huge costs involved.

Earlier this year, an MSF team filmed Khumbulani sitting outside his rural family home in silence and shared a short video on World TB Day.  

The video came to the attention of an anonymous donor, who offered to pay for cochlear implants.  A coochlear implant is an electronic medical device used to replace the function of the damaged inner ear.

Today Khumbulani can hear again. He has now been taken off the drug that was pressurising his optic nerve, and his vision is improving. 

Read the full story on CNN's website "Toxic treatments: Choosing between deafness and death"  (video: courtesy of CNN)

Read "Five deadly barriers to effective TB care"