Researchers discovered that vitamin C kills tuberculosis cells.
Tuberculosis is caused by infection with the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The disease is especially acute in low and middle income countries, which account for more than 95 percent of tuberculosis-related deaths, according to the World Health Organization.
“We’ve discovered that vitamin C kills Mycobacterium tuberculosis cells.” TB researcher William Jacobs, with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx. “And in fact it works not only on the multidrug-resistant strains, but the totally drug-resistant strains as well.”
Jacobs was studying whether the TB drug isoniazid was being inactivated by the presence of a particular amino acid, cysteine, which in chemical terms acts as a reducing agent, by donating electrons. So they added this with the isoniazid expecting that they’d get resistance. And it really led to sterilization. This reducing agent actually induced free radicals which are highly reactive chemical entities that can damage cells. And it was the free radicals that were killing the TB.
So they wanted to try another reducing agent, vitamin C… And they discovered that vitamin C kills tuberculosis. This research suggest that vitamin C added to existing anti-tuberculosis drugs can be a new and better option.
“We don’t know whether vitamin C will work in humans, but we now have a rational basis for doing a clinical trial. 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 tuberculosis,” Prof Jacobs concluded.
The findings were published in the journal Nature Communications and could highlight a new area for drug design.