Bayer has said it will donate 620,000 tablets of its antibiotic moxifloxacin in order to help tackle multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.

The drugs will be provided to the World Health Organization for use in its Stop Tuberculosis Partnership, with the WHO expected to provide the antibiotics to China's national tuberculosis programme.

Earlier this year, WHO director-general Margaret Chan said that at least 440,000 new cases of multidrug resistant-TB were detected in 2008, the last year data are available, and the world if heading for an era in which common infections will "kill unabated" unless urgent action is taken to curb the spread of antibiotic resistance.

The WHO has issued a plea to drugmakers to donate medicines to help healthcare systems treat tuberculosis patients effectively.

Commenting on the latest donation, Bayer chairman Joerg Reinhardt said: "We have decided to make moxifloxacin available to provide quick support to those patients in need."

"We were happy to follow the request from WHO because we believe that this is the right step to address an increasing medical need in patients affected with this serious disease and for whom there are only very limited oral treatment options available."

Moxifloxacin is not specifically approved to treat tuberculosis, but the WHO has included the drug in its treatment guidelines as a second-line regimen in patients with multidrug-resistant forms of the disease. Bayer is currently conducting clinical trials of the antibiotic in tuberculosis.

- Meanwhile, the WHO has issued an update to its Guidelines for Programmatic Management of Drug-resistant Tuberculosis, which are designed to provide technical assistance to countries in order to help them improve the care of TB patients. The guide provides recommendation on length of treatment and composition of regimens based on a meta-analysis of more than 9,000 multidrug-resistant tuberculosis treatment episodes.