A centuries-old herbal medicine, discovered by Chinese scientists and used to effectively treat malaria, has been found to potentially aid in the treatment of tuberculosis and may slow the evolution of drug resistance.
In a promising study led by Robert Abramovitch, a Michigan State University microbiologist and TB expert, the ancient remedy artemisinin stopped the ability of TB-causing bacteria, known as Mycobacterium tuberculosis, to become dormant. This stage of the disease often makes the use of antibiotics ineffective.
The study is published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.
“When TB bacteria are dormant, they become highly tolerant to antibiotics,” Abramovitch said, an assistant professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine. “Blocking dormancy makes the TB bacteria more sensitive to these drugs and could shorten treatment times.”
One-third of the world’s population is infected with TB and the disease killed 1.8 million people in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis, or Mtb, needs oxygen to thrive in the body. The immune system starves this bacterium of oxygen to control the infection. Abramovitch and his team found that artemisinin attacks a molecule called heme, which is found in the Mtb oxygen sensor. By disrupting this sensor and essentially turning it off, the artemisinin stopped the disease’s ability to sense how much oxygen it was getting.
“When the Mtb is starved of oxygen, it goes into a dormant state, which protects it from the stress of low-oxygen environments,” Abramovitch said. “If Mtb can’t sense low oxygen, then it can’t become dormant and will die.”
Abramovitch indicated that dormant TB can remain inactive for decades in the body. But if the immune system weakens at some point, it can wake back up and spread. Whether it wakes up or stays ‘asleep’ though, he said TB can take up to six months to treat and is one of the main reasons the disease is so difficult to control.
“Patients often don’t stick to the treatment regimen because of the length of time it takes to cure the disease,” he said. “Incomplete therapy plays an important role in the evolution and spread of multi-drug resistant TB strains.”
He said the research could be key to shortening the course of therapy because it can clear out the dormant, hard-to-kill bacteria. This could lead to improving patient outcomes and slowing the evolution of drug-resistant TB.
After screening 540,000 different compounds, Abramovitch also found five other possible chemical inhibitors that target the Mtb oxygen sensor in various ways and could be effective in treatment as well.
“Two billion people worldwide are infected with Mtb,” Abramovitch said. “TB is a global problem that requires new tools to slow its spread and overcome drug resistance. This new method of targeting dormant bacteria is exciting because it shows us a new way to kill it. ”
Learn more: ANCIENT CHINESE MALARIA REMEDY FIGHTS TB
A point-of-care rapid diagnostic test for tuberculosis (TB) has been developed by a multinational team of scientists led by researchers at Stellenbosch University.
“This low-cost screening test has the potential to significantly speed up TB diagnosis in resource-limited setting,” says co-inventor, Prof Gerhard Walzl of Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. The test is conducted on blood obtained from a finger-prick and can make a TB diagnosis in less than an hour.
“Health care workers with minimal training will be able use the test at grass-roots level and get immediate access to screening test results,” says Walzl. The diagnostic test is a hand-held, battery-operated instrument that will measure chemicals in the blood of people with possible TB.
The device is currently in developmental phase and its accuracy and efficacy will be tested in five African countries over the next three years by the ScreenTB consortium, a team of TB experts from eight African and European partnering institutions.
Tuberculosis (TB) is a highly infectious disease and a major global health problem, especially in countries with developing health care systems. Because there is no fast, easy way to detect TB, the deadly infection can spread quickly through communities.
Now, a team reports in ACS Sensors the development of a rapid, sensitive and low-cost method for detecting the disease in resource-limited areas.
In response to drug-resistant “superbugs” that send millions of people to hospitals around the world, scientists are building tiny, “molecular drill bits” that kill bacteria by bursting through their protective cell walls.
They presented some of the latest developments on these drill bits, better known to scientists as antimicrobial peptides (AMPs), at the 247th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society.
The meeting, which features more than 10,000 scientific reports across disciplines from energy to medicine, continues here through Thursday.
One of the researchers in the search for new ways to beat pathogenic bacteria is Georges Belfort, Ph.D. He and his team have been searching for a new therapy against the bacteria that cause tuberculosis (TB). It’s a well-known, treatable disease, but resistant strains are cropping up. The World Health Organization estimates that about 170,000 people died from multidrug-resistant TB in 2012.
“If the bacteria build resistance to all current treatments, you’re dead in the water,” said Belfort, who is at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
To avoid this dire scenario, scientists are developing creative ways to battle the disease. In ongoing research, Belfort’s group together with his wife, Marlene Belfort, and her group at the University at Albany are trying to dismantle bacteria from within. They also decided to attack it from the outside.