Why is long-term therapy required to cure tuberculosis?

March 20, 2007

Understanding why other bacteria become resistant to antibiotics could hold the key to understanding why TB takes so long to cure, say researchers in a policy paper in PLoS Medicine.

Patients with TB typically have to take 4 antibiotics for 2 months and then continue 2 of these antibiotics for an additional 4 months. Why is such long treatment needed?

Lalita Ramakrishnan (University of Washington) and colleagues say that traditionally the answer was thought to lie in the fact that the tuberculosis microbe achieves a TB-specific "dormant" or non-replicating state in an infected person. Because virtually all types of antibiotics act only on replicating bacteria, the dormant state of TB is thought to render it resistant to treatment.

But the authors now challenge this traditional view. In the light of data on treating human TB and other bacterial infections, they suggest that the non-replicating state is not TB-specific and that the number of non-replicating bacteria correlates with total bacterial burden rather than TB-specific pathology.

"This correlation between bacterial burden and time to cure is not unique to TB, as it has been found in other bacterial infections, both acute and chronic," they say.

Understanding and countering the ways in which bacteria in general (rather than TB specifically) become resistant to antibiotics, say Ramakrishnan and colleagues, "may hold the key to reducing the duration of treatment of all recalcitrant bacterial infections, including TB."

Source: Public Library of Science

Explore further: Don't say yes to antibiotics too quickly

Related Stories

Don't say yes to antibiotics too quickly

December 6, 2016

Please be aware of antibiotic resistance, stresses researcher Nienke Beerlage from the University of Twente. "Think along with your doctor and do not allow yourself to be fobbed off immediately with antibiotics."

Bacteriophages cure bacterial infections

November 16, 2016

Phage therapy may be a solution to treating infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Since 2013, researchers at the University of Helsinki in Finland have collected bacteriophages to combat antibiotic-resistant ...

Recommended for you

Researchers question lifelong immunity to toxoplasmosis

December 8, 2016

Medical students are taught that once infected with Toxoplasma gondii—the "cat parasite"—then you're protected from reinfection for the rest of your life. This dogma should be questioned, argue researchers in an Opinion ...

Key regulator of bone development identified

December 8, 2016

Loss of a key protein leads to defects in skeletal development including reduced bone density and a shortening of the fingers and toes—a condition known as brachydactyly. The discovery was made by researchers at Penn State ...

TET proteins drive early neurogenesis

December 7, 2016

The fate of stem cells is determined by series of choices that sequentially narrow their available options until stem cells' offspring have found their station and purpose in the body. Their decisions are guided in part by ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.