It took ten years to do it, but researchers on the disease of tuberculosis have managed to develop a novel compound to treat TB. I learned that the good news this time is that it is not an antibiotic. My understanding is that it is believed to go into trial for humans in the next three to four years.
I had the pleasure of speaking with a physician who is knowledgeable on the subject of tuberculosis and its treatment. I understand that there was a vaccine developed for TB about one hundred years ago but over thirty percent of people in the world are thought to be infected with the bacteria.
It is estimated that around 1.7 million people die each year from TB, with 7.3 million diagnosed and treated in the year of 2018. I found out that this number is up from 6.3 million recorded in 2016.
I learned that tuberculosis is mostly common in China, Africa, and India but it is on the rise in the United States and the United Kingdom. In fact, London has been called the tuberculosis capitol of the European Union.
In order to treat TB, patients need to take an assortment of antibiotic drugs during a six to eight month period of time. The side effects are less than pleasant and there is still a 20% risk of disease return. These odds are not good.
The reason for this is the fact that TB has become resistant to antibiotics over the years and there are many strains that can endure heavy antibiotic treatment. That is why, when the University of Manchester’s team discovered a new non-antibiotic compound to treat the disease it was good news.
The New Compound
I learned about the studies done with this compound and found out that it was tested in animals with both chronic and acute TB infection. We found out that it was tested with other compounds that were thought to break down the defenses of the bacteria against the immune system.
As it turns out, this particular compound worked and it was capable of totally breaking down the tuberculosis bacteria’s defenses against the immune system. This means that white blood cells can finally attack the bacteria and kill it off.
I found out that the tuberculosis bacteria, Mycobacterium Tuberculosis, is capable of secreting and does secrete compounds known as Virulence Factors. These end up blocking the immune system from noticing the bacteria and thus it proliferates.
The New Treatment
With the identification of one of these Virulence Factors, MptpB, it was found that blocking this factor allowed white blood cells to attack and kill the bacteria efficiently.
Since the compound does not kill the bacteria directly, the TB cannot develop defenses against it. Furthermore, there is no compound in the human body that is related to MptpB so there is no possibility of harming the human body with it.
I learned that this means we now will have a new treatment approach to treating TB infections in a successful and effective manner without the use of antibiotic drugs.