PredictTB Final Meeting on June 9, 2022

On June 9, the EDCTP-part of the PredictTB consortium held its final meeting online. The 5.5-year project is scheduled to draw to a close at the end of July this year. During the final meeting, the group reviewed their achievements to date and discussed joint follow-up activities beyond the funded project phase, such as the ongoing data analysis as well as future dissemination activities.

PredictTB is a large-scale clinical study that received international, national as well as public and private funding from Europe, South Africa, China, and the US. LINQ has been managing the European funding by the EDCTP, headed by our long-standing collaborator Prof. Gerhard Walzl of Stellenbosch University (SUN) in South Africa, and leading the Project Management Work Package.

The PredictTB consortium carried out a large-scale clinical study with close to 700 participants in China and South Africa to find and validate biomarkers that can identify tuberculosis (TB) patients who can be cured with shorter treatment.

PredictTB provides a wealth of clinical, imaging and microbiological data

One key topic of discussion during the final meeting was the trial outcomes. Even if the early stopping criteria were shown not to be effective in achieving a safe reduction period of standard TB treatment from six to four months, the PredictTB study provides a wealth of clinical, imaging and microbiological data. The sample collection of PET/CT scans of TB patients during treatment produced by the study is among the largest of its kind.

To improve researchers’ understanding of what causes relapse in TB patients, the relapse samples from the study are currently being used for RNA sequencing and whole genome sequencing. This work will continue also after the funding period.

Promising results from the MERM stub-study

Several sub-studies have been carried out as part of the PredictTB project. The final meeting included a presentation of the sub-study MERM, short for Medication Event Reminder-Monitor. All participants in the PredictTB study received a MERM box, a device that stored their pills and reminded them to take their medication on time.

The results from the MERM study are promising. All participants were asked to fill out two questionnaires, one at the start and one at the end of their treatment, to evaluate if their perception of the MERM box changes over time. Overall, treatment adherence was high in PredictTB compared to past trials, and a majority of the participants reported that they found MERM helpful.

Ensuring long-lasting impact

Another major component of the PredictTB project was capacity building. A large number of training and networking activities have been implemented by the consortium, including a mentorship scheme, which consisted of 15 mentor-mentee pairs.

To support capacity building also in times when in-person meetings were restricted or not possible at all, LINQ worked with the Capacity Building Leads at SUN, Prof Novel Chegou and Dr Fanie Malherbe, to develop the PredictTB Learning Board. This online platform contains curated material for skill and career development and helps ensure that knowledge collected and produced during PredictTB remains easily accessible for members of the consortium also after the project lifetime.

The large-scale PredictTB study has brought together researchers from around the world. It has been a great pleasure to support this group during the project and we look forward to continuing working with members of the team in the future.

For a more detailed overview of how LINQ has supported the project over the past years, check out the PredictTB showcase page here.