Irish researchers developing new medicine to treat more tuberculosis patients

Irish researchers developing new medicine to treat more tuberculosis patients

January 8, 2019 Off By Dino Mustafić

Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland team of researchers (RCSI) said Tuesday they have developed a new treatment for tuberculosis (TB), a potential practical treatment to be scaled-up and mass-produced for clinical testing.

The treatment, which patients will take using an inhaler, works by reducing the bacteria in the lungs that causes tuberculosis while also helping the patient’s immune system fight the disease, the RCSI said in an announcement.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), TB is one of the major causes of death worldwide, with 10 million people fell ill with TB and 1.6 million died from the disease in 2017. WHO states that the vaccine for tuberculosis is not suitable in all patient groups, works best against specific forms of TB, and is usually given to infants in at-risk populations. There were 558,000 new cases with resistance to the most effective first-line antibiotic, WHO estimates, with 82% being resistant to multiple antibiotics.

The research, published in the European Journal of Pharmaceutics & Biopharmaceutics, was funded by the Health Research Board (HRB) and the Royal City of Dublin Hospital Trust

RSCI noted in the press release that  multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) is seen as a public health crisis. Ending the TB epidemic by 2030 is listed among the health targets of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, it said.

The pathogen that causes tuberculosis spreads by people breathing infected droplets into their lungs, where the disease can remain dormant or spread further. The research uses a derivative of Vitamin A called all trans retinoic acid, atRA, which previous studies have shown is an effective treatment for tuberculosis.

Sally-Ann Cryan, Associate Professor of Pharmaceutics in RCSI School of Pharmacy and the study’s senior author, said: “Many cases of TB are now becoming resistant to existing antibiotics. This new treatment could be used alongside antibiotics to treat drug-resistant TB and also possibly reduce the rate of antibiotic resistance resulting from conventional antibiotic treatments.”

Using a spray-drying process, the researchers packaged atRA within safe-for-consumption particles that are small enough to use in an inhaler. These particles efficiently delivered the treatment and significantly reduced tuberculosis-causing bacteria and associated lung damage, which supports their potential for clinical testing, according to the RCSI’s press release.

Joseph Keane, Professor at Trinity College Dublin School of Medicine and Consultant Respiratory Physician in St James’s Hospital, who with Dr Mary O’Sullivan led the team, added: “Unfortunately, tuberculosis remains a significant problem for world health. We urgently need innovative treatments like this one if we are to achieve the UN 2030 health targets.”