Turmeric fights drug-resistant TB by boosting immune system
The rise of drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) has created a great need for drugs that can help prevent the disease.The disease is caused by a bacteria, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, that is spread from person to person in the air – in the same way as non-drug resistant TB.It also affects the lungs, brain, kidneys and spine, in the same way the treatable strain does.
Yet, traditional therapies used to mitigate TB do not work on the drug-resistant variety.And so, scientists have searched for an agent that could have a direct antimycobacterial effect – or enhance a persons’ immunity to the bacteria.
Now, a group of experts from Colorado, United States (US) and China revealed the key to fighting drug-resistant TB could be found in a person’s pantry.A compound responsible for the bright yellow-orange color of turmeric – typically a key ingredient in a curry – can kill the bacteria that causes drug-resistant TB, they discovered.
The study was published in the journal Respirology. Tubercluosis is one of the leading causes of death worldwide by an infectious agent.One-third of the world’s population is infected with TB, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In 2014 alone, 9.6 million became sick with the disease – and 1.5 million died from TB.The likelihood of TB infection depends on a variety of factors, including lack of sufficient medical care, immunosuppression due to malnutrition, co-infection with Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV) – and the burgeoning drug-resistance.
Curcumin is a polyphenol that causes turmeric – a spice derived from the root of the herb Curcuma longa – to get its colour.Turmeric, in Asia, is used to treat a variety of health conditions – and has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant effects.
Curcumin is a potent inducer of apoptosis, which is a mechanism used by human immune cells – called macrophages – to kill bacteria.In the current study, scientists used an in vitro human macrophage infection model to determine the effects of curcumin on Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
They found that by stimulating white blood cells – a key part of the immune system – curcumin was able to successfully remove Mycobacterium tuberculosis from infected cells.
The process relied on inhibiting the activation of a cellular molecule, called nuclear factor-kappa B.The finding could lead to potential new TB treatments that would be less prone to the development of drug resistance.
Lead study author Dr Xiyuan Bai, of the Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center, said: “Our study has provided basic evidence that curcumin protects against Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection in human cells.
“The protective role of curcumin to fight drug-resistant tuberculosis still needs confirmation, but if validated, curcumin may become a novel treatment to modulate the host immune response to overcome drug-resistant tuberculosis.”