Vitamin B3 may offer new tool in fight against 'superbugs'

August 27, 2012

A new study suggests that nicotinamide, more commonly known as vitamin B3, may be able to combat some of the antibiotic-resistance staph infections that are increasingly common around the world, have killed thousands and can pose a significant threat to public health.

The research found that high doses of this vitamin increased by 1,000 times the ability of immune cells to kill . The work was done both in laboratory animals and with human blood.

The findings were published today in the by researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, UCLA, and other institutions. The research was supported by several grants from the National Institutes of Health.

The work may offer a new avenue of attack against the growing number of "superbugs."

"This is potentially very significant, although we still need to do human studies," said Adrian Gombart, an associate professor in OSU's Linus Pauling Institute. "Antibiotics are wonder drugs, but they face increasing problems with resistance by various types of bacteria, especially .

"This could give us a new way to treat staph infections that can be deadly, and might be used in combination with current antibiotics," Gombart said. "It's a way to tap into the power of the and stimulate it to provide a more powerful and natural immune response."

The scientists found that clinical doses of nicotinamide increased the numbers and efficacy of "neutrophils," a specialized type of white blood cell that can kill and eat .

The nicotinamide was given at megadose, or therapeutic levels, far beyond what any normal diet would provide - but nonetheless in amounts that have already been used safely in humans, as a drug, for other medical purposes.

However, there is no evidence yet that normal diets or conventional-strength supplements of vitamin B3 would have any beneficial effect in preventing or treating bacterial infection, Gombart said, and people should not start taking high doses of the vitamin.

Gombart has been studying some of these issues for more than a decade, and discovered 10 years ago a human genetic mutation that makes people more vulnerable to bacterial infections. In continued work on the genetic underpinnings of this problem, researchers found that nicotinamide had the ability to "turn on" certain antimicrobial genes that greatly increase the ability of to kill bacteria.

One of the most common and serious of the staph infections, called methicillin-resistant S. aureus, or MRSA, was part of this study. It can cause serious and life-threatening illness, and researchers say the widespread use of antibiotics has helped increase the emergence and spread of this bacterial pathogen.

Dr. George Liu, an infectious disease expert at Cedars-Sinai and co-senior author on the study, said that "this vitamin is surprisingly effective in fighting off and protecting against one of today's most concerning public health threats." Such approaches could help reduce dependence on antibiotics, he said.

Co-first authors Pierre Kyme and Nils Thoennissen found that when used in human blood, clinical doses of appeared to wipe out the staph infection in only a few hours.

Serious , such as those caused by MRSA, are increasingly prevalent in hospitals and nursing homes, but are also on the rise in prisons, the military, among athletes, and in other settings where many people come into close contact.

Explore further: Researchers closer to the super bug puzzle

Related Stories

Researchers closer to the super bug puzzle

November 11, 2011
Infectious diseases specialists from Austin Health are working closely with Microbiologists from the University of Melbourne to understand how Staph is becoming resistant to all antibiotic therapies.

Like curry? New biological role identified for compound used in ancient medicine

May 25, 2012
Scientists have just identified a new reason why some curry dishes, made with spices humans have used for thousands of years, might be good for you.

Recommended for you

Inflammation trains the skin to heal faster

October 18, 2017
Scars may fade, but the skin remembers. New research from The Rockefeller University reveals that wounds or other harmful, inflammation-provoking experiences impart long-lasting memories to stem cells residing in the skin, ...

Large variety of microbial communities found to live along female reproductive tract

October 18, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A large team of researchers from China (and one each from Norway and Denmark) has found that the female reproductive tract is host to a far richer microbial community than has been thought. In their paper ...

Study of what makes cells resistant to radiation could improve cancer treatments

October 18, 2017
A Johns Hopkins University biologist is part of a research team that has demonstrated a way to size up a cell's resistance to radiation, a step that could eventually help improve cancer treatments.

New approach helps rodents with spinal cord injury breathe on their own

October 17, 2017
One of the most severe consequences of spinal cord injury in the neck is losing the ability to control the diaphragm and breathe on one's own. Now, investigators show for the first time in laboratory models that two different ...

Pair of discoveries illuminate new paths to flu and anthrax treatments

October 17, 2017
Two recent studies led by biologists at the University of California San Diego have set the research groundwork for new avenues to treat influenza and anthrax poisoning.

New method to measure how drugs interact

October 17, 2017
Cancer, HIV and tuberculosis are among the many serious diseases that are frequently treated with combinations of three or more drugs, over months or even years. Developing the most effective therapies for such diseases requires ...

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.