Current tuberculosis treatments can last up to six months, and this is the biggest reason for the evolution of drug-resistant strains during the long course of treatment. A new study has revealed that a commonly used glaucoma medication, ethoxzolamide, could also be used to treat tuberculosis, even the drug-resistant kind. Ethoxzolamide is a sulfa-based compound found in many prescription glaucoma drugs, and studies have shown that it actually turns off the bacterium's ability to invade the immune system.
Robert Abramovitch from Michigan State University in the US said, "Basically, ethoxzolamide stops TB from deploying its weapons shutting down its ability to grow inside certain white blood cells in the immune system. We found the compound reduces disease symptoms in mice."
According to Abramovitch, the TB bacterium may not have eyes and ears, but it has the uncanny ability to sense certain environmental cues in the body and adapt. One of these cues includes the infection's ability to detect pH, or acidity levels, which tells the disease it is being attacked by a host immune cell.
Abramovitch explained, "The compound we found inhibits TB's ability to detect acidic environments, effectively blindfolding the bacterium so it cannot resist the immune system's assault. This elusive compound not only has the potential of preventing the disease from spreading, but it could help shorten the length of treatment and slow the emergence of drug resistance, particularly if found to work in conjunction with other existing TB drugs."
The research appeared in the Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.