Two Drugs Already On the Market Show Promise Against Tuberculosis

Bilateral Pulmonary Tuberculosis
Bilateral Pulmonary Tuberculosis (Photo credit: pranab.chatterjee)

Kills 2 million people annually

A two-drug combination is one of the most promising advances in decades for the treatment of tuberculosis (TB) — a disease that kills 2 million people annually — a scientist reported March 26 at the 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). The treatment, which combines two medications already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), delivers a knockout punch to forms of TB that shrug off other antibiotics.

John Blanchard, Ph.D., pointed out that TB is fostering a global public health crisis. Up to one-third of the world’s population is infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), the bacterium that causes TB. Mtb can be especially serious among the elderly, individuals infected with the AIDS virus and others with weakened immune systems. Of special concern is the emergence of drug-resistant forms of the TB microbe, including the so-called XDR and MDR strains that shrug off the most powerful antibiotics.

But treatment with the antibiotic meropenem plus another drug, clavulanate, offers new hope for dealing with the disease.

“We’ve tested this combination against laboratory strains of Mtb, XDR and MDR strains from patients,” explained Blanchard, who is Professor of Biochemistry at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York City. “In all cases, the combination doesn’t just slow down growth — it kills the bacterium in laboratory tests.”

The standard TB treatment consists of a so-called “short-course” of four drugs that was developed in the 1960s and 1970s. Patients take isoniazid, rifampin, pyrazinamide and ethambutol for two months, and then isoniazid and rifampicin alone for an additional four months.

“As you can well imagine, after 40 or 45 years of people being treated with the same drugs, what’s happening is that the bacterium is developing resistance to those drugs,” said Blanchard. “Some forms, or strains, are resistant to many drugs (MDR, or multidrug-resistant), and some are resistant to almost all known antibiotics (XDR, or extensively drug-resistant). A physician I know in India just reported a strain of TB that is totally drug-resistant. There’s nothing currently available that he can use to treat these patients.”

But now, there’s hope.

Read more . . .

See Also

via Science Daily

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