Scientists in the city have found that combining anti-malarial drugs with conventional anti-tuberculosis drugs can significantly cut downtime to treat TB.
The five-year study involving 12 scientists from three city institutions has found that the anti-malarial drug Chloroquine prevents the appearance of Mycobacterium, the TB-causing bacteria immune to first-line antibiotics.
While conventional TB treatment takes nearly six to nine months, blending Chloroquine with TB antibiotics brings down the time by three months, explained Dr Amit Singh of the Centre for Infectious Disease Research at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), who headed the IISc contingent involved in the study.
Long treatment time has been a major hurdle in TB therapy, complicated by the daily intake of four antibiotic tablets for the duration to prevent a relapse of the disease.
“So protracted is the treatment period, that many patients abort the treatment when they feel better or worse due to the side effects of the antibiotics,” Dr Singh said.
IISc PhD student Richa Mishra, the first author of the study, revealed that Chloroquine neutralises acidic levels within macrophages.
“It treats malaria because it attacks the acidic food molecules of the malaria-causing protozoan parasite, which starves the protozoa,” Richa said.
The research team used macrophages for the study. When the TB bacteria entered a macrophage with an acidic pH, it was found to change its phenotype and become resistant to antibiotics.
“The study shows, for the first time, that at the level of macrophages, immune tuberculosis cells are different from each other — based on the type of macrophage they enter,” Dr Singh said.
Seven of the study’s authors are from IISc, two from the National Centre for Biological Sciences and two from the Foundation for Neglected Disease Research.