Researchers at Johns Hopkins Children's Center and the Center for TB Research found that by inhibiting a key immune response in mice during drug treatment for tuberculosis (TB) they could shorten the length of treatment necessary to kill the bacteria that causes the disease.
The researchers compared the immune responses between TB-infected mice receiving rifampin, isoniazid and pyrazinamide, the standard TB treatment, with mice that received etanercept, a drug used to inhibit the the response of protein TNF-α, along with the standard treatments. After eight weeks, the mice treated with etanercept had a significantly reduced bacterial levels than those that received the standard treatment alone.
Lead author of the study Sanjay Jain, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Hopkins Children's Center commented that "current treatments largely target actively replicating bacteria, rather than slow-replicating, persistent TB bacteria."
Reducing the current six-month TB treatment regimen to a much shorter time is a goal of numerous TB researchers working on new drug discovery. Failure to complete TB treatments, either because of cost, drug availability or side effects, is believed to be the cause of the rapid growth in drug resistant forms of TB.
The study was published on PLoS ONE on June 27.