Common antacid may treat tuberculosis: Study

By: | Published: July 8, 2015 6:15 PM

A common over-the-counter drug used to treat heartburn could help fight the deadly tuberculosis, a new study has claimed.

A common over-the-counter drug used to treat heartburn could help fight the deadly tuberculosis, a new study has claimed.

Testing thousands of approved drugs, scientists at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland identified the unlikely anti-tuberculosis drug: the antacid lansoprazole (Prevacid).

Tuberculosis continues to be a global pandemic, second only to AIDS as the greatest single-agent killer in the world. In 2013 alone, the TB bug Mycobacterium tuberculosis caused 1.5 million deaths and almost nine million new infections, researchers said.

Resistance to TB drugs is widespread, creating an urgent need for new medicines.

EPFL scientists have now identified lansoprazole, a widely used, over-the-counter antacid, as an excellent candidate against tuberculosis.

It takes well over ten years for a new tuberculosis drug to complete these trials and be approved for human use. Meanwhile, traditional antibiotics have led many strains of tuberculosis bacteria to evolve multi-drug resistance.

Millions of new chemical compounds have been tested for their ability to disrupt the growth of M tuberculosis in the test tube, but discouragingly few are currently in clinical trials, researchers said.

Stewart Cole’s lab at EPFL used a robotised system that gives candidate drugs to cultured lung cells that have been infected with M tuberculosis.

Scientists screened a large panel of already approved drugs, and identified the blockbuster antacid lansoprazole, as a potential anti-tuberculosis medication.

Lansoprazole was found to be effective against M tuberculosis but 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 sulphur-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 lansoprazole against a wide range of other bacteria, it proved to be highly selective for M tuberculosis.

Lansoprazole belongs to a class of drugs known as “proton-pump inhibitors” that keep the stomach from pumping too much acid, thus preventing heartburn and ulcers.

“Being highly active against drug-resistant strains of M tuberculosis, this novel class of drugs provides us with an excellent opportunity to treat tuberculosis,” Cole added.

The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.

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