If there is a suspicion of tuberculosis, the doctor will prepare an X-ray of the ribcage.

© Minerva Studio – Fotolia

Thu 13th September 2018

An international research team has succeeded in developing a non-antibiotic drug that could treat tuberculosis. The scientists hope that the new product, which has led to promising results in animals, can be tested in humans in three to four years.

The new active ingredient attacks a protective strategy of the tuberculosis pathogen: In an infection, the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis releases certain substances, so-called virulence factors, which help it to escape the immune system. As the researchers report in the journal Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, they have been able to identify one of these virulence factors. If this is switched off, the immune system can attack the bacterium more effectively, explains project leader Professor Lydia Tabernero from the University of Manchester. In experiments with guinea pigs with acute and chronic tuberculosis, the researchers were able to show that the new drug significantly reduces the bacterial load. The special feature is that the active ingredient does not kill the tuberculosis pathogen directly, but rather turns off a protective strategy for the bacteria, says Tabernero. Thus, the new approach could possibly help to eliminate antibiotic-resistant bacteria, so the scientists hope. In a next step, they want to further optimize the drug and hope to be able to start clinical trials in three to four years. Every year, around 1.7 million people die from tuberculosis. In 2016, lung disease was diagnosed and treated in 6.3 million people worldwide, and the trend is rising. For over 60 years, antibiotics have been the only weapon that doctors can use. However, the increase in resistance is a worrying problem and the long duration of treatment of more than six to eight months with a cocktail of strong antibiotics is often difficult and distressing for patients. HH
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