What scientists and health practitioners were looking for in far, remote and complicated terrains may just be lurking around the corner as researchers are on the verge of a breakthrough for Tuberculosis cure. They have stumbled on a simple (OTC) antacid which has always been in your neighbourhood stores. Health Editor, MORGAN NWANGUMA follows the trend of this new finding which places great hopes on lansoprazole as an excellent treatment for TB.
Who would have thought that a simple over-the-counter drug just lying by the side could be the efficacious remedy that doctors and patients alike have looked for to take care of a stubborn and deadly disease such as tuberculosis? Well, as interesting and simple as it may sound, scientists have suddenly discovered that lansoprazole which is a widely used, over-the-counter antacid can after all be an excellent candidate or remedy to treat tuberculosis, a disease that continues to ravage the world.
With the news of a recent report in a particular school in El Paso, West Texas, of the US, thirty-five students and staff tested positive for TB, according to Foxnews. In 2014, a total of 44 tuberculosis cases were recorded in the El Paso area alone. Subsequently a fresh round of testing will be carried out on 40 children and a hundred adults as expected in the coming days. Considering that those who tested positive are almost at par with last year’s numbers reports have it that it is already generating panic among the community of scientists and researchers.
Currently, many tuberculosis strains are said to pose resistance to the drugs that are mostly used for treatment. And so those who are diagnosed with the ailment are expected to take a lot of medications within a period of time in order to completely clear out the infection.
The drug lansoprazole is said to belong to a class of drugs known as ‘proton-pump inhibitors’. They prevent the pumping of too much acid by the stomach thereby averting the onset of heartburn and ulcers. According to Professor Stewart Cole, who is he lead researcher in this project, “proton-pump inhibitors are both safe and widely sold around the world.
Being highly active against drug resistant strains M. tuberculosis, this novel class of drugs provides us with an excellent opportunity to treat tuberculosis” he said.
It is a well known and worrisome fact that tuberculosis continues to be a global pandemic; it is rated second only to AIDS as the greatest single-agent killer in the world today. For instance, in 2013 alone, the tuberculosis bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis caused the deaths of 1.5 million people and almost nine million new infections for the world to grapple with. Scientific evidence has also shown that resistance to tuberculosis drugs is widespread, leading to an urgent need for new medicaments.
The world over the seriousness of Tuberculosis (TB) need not be overemphasised; experts say in fact it could not be stressed even any further than they have. The disease majorly affects the lungs, and the bacteria causing TB are considered infectious. Tiny droplets in the air containing the bacteria can be released through coughing or sneezing, as documented by WebMd.
Despite medical interventions and efforts made since the 1950s, TB has remained a huge issue and concern in most parts of the world as it is considered a global pandemic killing in its wake thousands and millions of people every year.
This revelation which is coming out of a study by a group of scientists working at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EFPL), in Switzerland is published in Nature Communications. The authors think it might be the breakthrough the world has been waiting for in order to effectively combat this great single-agent killer disease.
They say that the process can be speeded up owing to the fact that it takes well over ten years for a new tuberculosis drug to complete the stages of trials and become approved for human use. For the time being, conventional antibiotics have led many strains of tuberculosis bacteria to develop multi-drug resistance. And millions of new chemical compounds have been tested for their ability to interrupt the growth of M. tuberculosis in the laboratory, but scientists have been disturbed by the fact that only few are currently in clinical trials.
Compounds that have already been approved for use in humans could be repurposed as anti-tuberculosis medications, and cut down both the time and cost of new drug development.
At the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EFPL), a method of screening for tuberculosis is employed; the strategy adopted by Stewart Cole’s lab happens to be a robotised system that gives candidate drugs to cultured lung cells that have been infected with M. tuberculosis. Robotised “high-throughput screens” like this are a growing trend in drug development as they can work through massive libraries of candidate drugs quickly and accurately in a day, as opposed to the months required by manual methods, they say.
The research scientists at EPFL used a method which they had developed before; it is said to be able to reflect what happens when the bacterium infects a lung much better than conventional screening assays used in tuberculosis research. The researchers screened a large panel of already approved medicines, and identified the breakthrough antacid lansoprazole which is known commercially as Prevacid®, as a potential anti-tuberculosis medication.
At the end of the day, the drug which originally is used to take care of heartburn, an antacid – a simple over-the-counter (OTC) medicine, lansoprazole was found to be effective against M. tuberculosis. But the scientists say this happens only when the bacterium grows inside cells. The researchers investigated the underlying biology and found that lansoprazole kills the bacterium after the human cells convert it into a sulfur-containing metabolite. This metabolite targets a particular enzyme that is crucial for the bacterium to produce energy, thereby killing it off. In addition, when the scientists tested the drug against a wide range of other bacteria, it proved to be highly selective for M. tuberculosis.
This research effort was made possible by grants from the Swiss National Science Foundation and the German Federal Ministry of Research and Education.