In what is an accidental discovery, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, New York, have found that vitamin C kills drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) bacteria in laboratory culture. The finding suggests that vitamin C added to existing TB drugs could shorten TB therapy, and it highlights a new area for drug design.
The study has been published in the online journal Nature Communications.
TB is caused by infection with the bacterium M. tuberculosis. In 2011, TB affected some 8.7 million people leading to the deaths of some 1.4 million people. according to the World Health Organization. Infections that fail to respond to TB drugs are a growing problem: About 650,000 people worldwide now have multi-drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB), People with extensive drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB).are mostly in low and middle income countries, which account for more than 95 percent of TB-related deaths, according to the World Health Organization.
The Einstein discovery arose during research into how TB bacteria become resistant to isoniazid, a potent first-line TB drug. The lead investigator and senior author of the study William Jacobs, Jr. Ph.D., professor of microbiology & immunology and of genetics at Einstein said his team was amazed to discover that vitamin C by itself not only sterilized the drug-susceptible TB, but also sterilized MDR-TB and XDR-TB strains.Jacobs adds that they do not know whether vitamin C will work in humans, but that they now have a rational basis for doing a clinical trial,. He addded that it also helps that vitamin C is inexpensive, widely available and very safe to use.