Testing thousands of approved drugs, EPFL scientists have identified an unlikely anti-tuberculosis drug: the over-the-counter antacid lansoprazole (Prevacid®). Tuberculosis (TB) continues to be a global pandemic, second only to AIDS as the greatest single-agent killer in the world. In 2013 alone, the TB bug Mycobacterium tuberculosis caused 1.5 million deaths and almost nine million new infections. Resistance to TB drugs is widespread, creating an urgent need for new medicines. EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) scientists in Switzerland have now identified lansoprazole, a widely used, over-the-counter antacid, as an excellent candidate against tuberculosis. The study was published online on July 9, 2015 in an open-access article in Nature Communications. The article is titled “Lansoprazole Is an Antituberculous Prodrug Targeting Cytochrome bc1.” It takes well over ten years for a new tuberculosis drug to complete these trials and be approved for human use. Meanwhile, traditional antibiotics have led many strains of tuberculosis bacteria to evolve multi-drug resistance (MDR). Millions of new chemical compounds have been tested for their ability to disrupt the growth of M. tuberculosis in the test tube, but discouragingly few are currently in clinical trials. But this process up can be sped up. Compounds that have already been approved for use in humans could be repurposed as anti-tuberculosis medications, and cut down both on the time and the cost of new drug development. This is the strategy adopted by Dr. Stewart Cole's lab at EPFL. The assay uses a robotized system that gives candidate drugs to cultured lung cells that have been infected with M. tuberculosis.
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