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Active ingredient artemisinin makes successful treatment easier
Again and again, doctors discover active ingredients in nature that can be used to treat diseases. Researchers have now found that artemisinin can be helpful in the treatment of tuberculosis. This natural compound comes from the so-called mugwort (Artemisia annua). The plant has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine.
Scientists at Michigan State University found in an investigation that a natural compound from mugwort can be effective in tuberculosis. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "Nature Chemical Biology".
Artemisinin prevents Mtb pathogens from dormant
The compound artemisinin is obtained from the plant mugwort (Artemisia annua) and is, for example, highly effective against drug-resistant malaria. The plant is normally used in traditional Chinese medicine. A recent study has now shown that artemisinin can prevent a special ability of Mycobacteriums tuberculosis (Mtb). Due to the active ingredient, the causative agent of tuberculosis is no longer able to go into a so-called resting state. This phase of the disease often makes the use of antibiotics ineffective, the experts explain.
Artemisinin can lead to a significantly shorter duration of treatment
When Mtb is at rest, they become very tolerant of antibiotics, the doctors say. Blocking the present effect makes the bacteria more sensitive to this type of medication. This could significantly reduce treatment times, explains the author Dr. Abramovitch.
Effects of Artemisinin on Mtb
Mtb needs oxygen to thrive in the human body. Artemisinin suffocates the immune system from this bacterium. This way the infection can be controlled better. The scientists also found that artemisinin attacks a molecule called heme, which is a kind of oxygen sensor for Mtb.
Artemisinin blocks Mtb's oxygen sensor
By interrupting or switching off this sensor, artemisinin stops the disease's ability to determine exactly how much oxygen has been absorbed, the scientists explain. If Mtb has not received enough oxygen, it will go into a dormant state. This effect protects against exposure to low oxygen levels. If Mtb cannot determine that it is receiving too little oxygen, it cannot go to sleep and die, says author Dr. Abramovitch.
Mtb is difficult to control
Dormant Mtb can remain inactive and can even last for decades in the body. If the immune system is then weakened sufficiently, Mtb can become active again and spread further, the researchers explain. Whether it's active or asleep, treatment can last up to six months. This is one of the main reasons why the disease is so difficult to control.
Another five potentially useful inhibitors discovered
After screening 540,000 different compounds, the authors also found five other possible chemical inhibitors that address the so-called Mtb oxygen sensor in different ways and could also be effective in treatment.
Results could shorten the course of therapy for tuberculosis
Current research could be the key to shortening the course of therapy for tuberculosis. For this reason, the treatment can also reach the dormant, difficult-to-kill bacteria. In this way, patients can benefit and the development of drug-resistant Mtb could be slowed down or possibly prevented altogether. (as)