Drugs used to treat malaria are also effective in treating a lung disease similar to tuberculosis, according to a study by a team of researchers from the University of Colorado.
The research was published in the journal “Science of Translational Medicine.”
The study was a significant development in the fight against infections caused by nontuberculous mycobacteria, or NTM, which are now more common than tuberculosis in the United States and often attack people who have weakened immune systems or medical conditions. pre-existing conditions such as chronic obstructive lung disease or cystic fibrosis.
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“There are currently very few antibiotics available to treat NTM infections, and some patients do not respond to any treatment,” said Professor Mary Jackson of the CSU’s Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology, one of the main authors.
“The prospect that antimalarial drugs that have already been in advanced clinical trials could become part of the arsenal of drugs available to fight these infections could have an immediate impact in the clinic,” she said. added.
Few drugs are effective against this mycobacterium, and those that tend to be toxic and cause bad side effects, Jackson said.
Researchers believe the bacteria is able to sense and react to threats in its environment, such as declining oxygen levels, oxidative stress and acidic pH, which are our body’s natural ways to fight disease.
It does this by activating, among other things, a regulator known as DosRS which controls many essential functions of the bacterium such as its respiration, its ability to form biofilms and its ability to enter a dormant state when conditions are not right. are not conducive to bacterial growth.
They found that in mice, two existing antimalarial drugs were able to prevent DosRS from responding to stress, meaning the bacteria had trouble fighting off antibiotics and the immune system’s natural response to disease.
“It blocked the regulator and prevented it from doing its job,” Jackson explained.
“One of the things the treatment did, in particular, was reduce the ability of the bacteria to form biofilms, thereby reducing its ability to resist killing by antibiotics,” she added.
The treatment alone was just as effective in bringing down bacterial loads in the lungs as the combination of antibiotics currently used to treat the disease.
“Treating M. abscessus is particularly difficult because a minimum of three to four antibiotics are needed in combination, and there are few options available,” said Dr. Jerry Nick, a pulmonologist at National Jewish Health.
“Repurposing antibiotics developed for other infections for use in the treatment of M. abscessus has proven to be the most effective route to increasing available therapies for this serious disease,” he added.
“This report is particularly exciting because these compounds were both effective against infection and also increased the efficacy of other antibiotics. The repurposing strategy reduces the time needed to test these compounds in clinical trials, as there are often a proven track record of safety and clinical experience,” he concluded.
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