CSU researchers find antimalarial drugs can fight lung disease

A research team from Colorado State University has found that drugs used to treat malaria are also effective in treating a lung disease similar to tuberculosis.

Their findings were featured on the cover of the February 23 issue of Science Translational Medicineone of the best scientific journals in the country.

The study is 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 pre-existing conditions like the disease chronic obstructive pulmonary or cystic fibrosis.

“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.”

The research, led by Jackson and lead author Juan Manuel Belardinelli, a researcher in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Pathology at CSU, targeted a NTM known as Mycobacterium abscessus. Few drugs are effective against this mycobacterium, and those that tend to be toxic and cause bad side effects, Jackson said.

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