Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Study Finds Vitamin C Kills Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis

Activist Post

In a striking, unexpected discovery, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have determined 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 was published today in the online journal Nature Communications.



TB is caused by infection with the bacterium M. tuberculosis. In 2011, TB sickened some 8.7 million people and took some 1.4 million lives, 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), 9 percent of whom have extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB).TB is especially acute 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 was William Jacobs, Jr., Ph.D., professor of microbiology & immunology and of genetics at Einstein. Dr. Jacobs is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and a recently elected member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Jacobs and his colleagues observed that isoniazid-resistant TB bacteria were deficient in a molecule called mycothiol. “We hypothesized that TB bacteria that can’t make mycothiol might contain more cysteine, an amino acid,” said Dr. Jacobs. “So, we predicted that if we added isoniazid and cysteine to isoniazid-sensitive M. tuberculosis in culture, the bacteria would develop resistance. Instead, we ended up killing off the culture— something totally unexpected.”

The Einstein team suspected that cysteine was helping to kill TB bacteria by acting as a “reducing agent” that triggers the production of reactive oxygen species (sometimes called free radicals), which can damage DNA.

"We predicted that if we added isoniazid and cysteine to isoniazid-sensitive M. tuberculosis in culture, the bacteria would develop resistance. Instead, we ended up killing off the culture— something totally unexpected."– William Jacobs, Jr., Ph.D.

“To test this hypothesis, we repeated the experiment using isoniazid and a different reducing agent— vitamin C,” said Dr. Jacobs. “The combination of isoniazid and vitamin C sterilized the M. tuberculosis culture. We were then amazed to discover that vitamin C by itself not only sterilized the drug-susceptible TB, but also sterilized MDR-TB and XDR-TB strains.”

To justify testing vitamin C in a clinical trial, Dr. Jacobs needed to find the molecular mechanism by which vitamin C exerted its lethal effect. More research produced the answer: Vitamin C induced what is known as a Fenton reaction, causing iron to react with other molecules to create reactive oxygen species that kill the TB bacteria.

“We don’t know whether vitamin C will work in humans, but we now have a rational basis for doing a clinical trial,” said Dr. Jacobs. “It also helps that we know vitamin C is inexpensive, widely available and very safe to use. At the very least, this work shows us a new mechanism that we can exploit to attack TB.”

The paper is titled, “Mycobacterium tuberculosis is extraordinarily sensitive to killing by a vitamin C-induced Fenton reaction.” The other contributors are Catherine Vilcheze, Ph.D., Travis Hartman and Brian Weinrick, Ph.D., all at Einstein.

The study was supported by a grant (AI26170) from National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Deirdre Branley
718.430.3101
sciencenews@einstein.yu.edu

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7 comments:

tal said...


If vitamin C kills drug-resistant tuberculosis, there's no reason to ADD it to current (ineffective) drugs. Simply use vitamin C, intravenous or liposomic, and skip the toxic drugs.

Paul said...

Or, is this part of the plan to push vitamins and supplements behind the high profit prescription medication wall?

iaincarstairs said...

Yes, my question is the same as another reader's. If Vitamin C kills drug resistant bacteria, why would you want to go to all the trouble of adding it to existing drugs?

Just use the vitamin C and save everyone a lot of trouble!

nota said...

@tal
Exactly what I was thinking...but then, like they say "vitamin C is inexpensive, widely available and very safe to use" (In other words, "Where's the money in that?") :)

Mike said...

Bingo Paul! The greedy patented pill pushers wouldn't have it any other way would they?

Anonymous said...

Too bad I'm allergic to rosehips... oranges and other citrus is too expensive to eat the quantity I'd need to for the benefit.

But for those NOT salicylate sensitive- do a search for 'rosehips' and you can buy them by the pound. Make teas with it. That's how people have done it in food shortages to stay healthy.

Anonymous said...

B-3 (Niacin) has also cured TB. Dr. Abrams details it in "Niacin, The Real Story". And, a great book on Vitamin C is : "Curing the Incurable", by Thomas Levy. Would anyone be shocked to learn that "incurable" viral diseases such as Hepatitis and Polio were easily cured in the '40s and 50's by a Dr. Klenner using high dose injections of vitamin C ? The concept is to get up to tissue saturation and keep it there with repeated iv treatments. Bacterial diseases were effectively treated, as well. Now that we have Liposomal / Lipospheric products, the IV method of application is not as necessary and we can administer large doses at home. One last thought: No need for the "shingles shot" since high dose vitamin C eradicates shingles quickly.

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