• Common Fungi holds Potential to Fight TB

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Common Fungi holds Potential to Fight TB

May 13 2019

Researchers at Lund University, Sweden and Imperial College London, believe they have come close to finding a new pharmaceutical candidate that rapidly and effectively kills TB bacteria.

The discovery of the NZX peptide, derived from a fairly common fungi - the ebony cup (Pseudoplectania nigrella) - was made by the scientists when they were screening different antimicrobial peptides for their ability to prevent the growth of the tuberculosis bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Current antibiotic treatments for TB require patients to undergo several treatments over a long period and antimicrobial peptides, which are produced naturally by all organisms, from plants to animals have emerged as interesting alternatives in the hunt for new drugs against this disease.
Several antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) were previously tested against tuberculosis bacteria without success, as they have either been toxic to human cells or not sufficiently stable.

The major advantage of AMPs is that bacteria find it more difficult to build up a resistance to the peptides, as these have more mechanisms than antibiotics to kill bacteria. Another advantage is that there are AMPs that can reduce inflammation and thus prevent damage to tissue during the treatment.

“When we investigated different peptides, we found one called NZX that is not toxic to our cells, but kills tuberculosis bacteria even at low concentrations. The peptide could also prevent lung damage during tuberculosis infection,” explains research team manager Gabriela Godaly, senior lecturer at the Department of Laboratory Medicine at Lund University.

The researchers are studying how NZX works against tuberculosis bacteria in combination with current antibiotics (rifampicin, isoniazid, pyrazinamide, ethambutol and streptomycin) in the hope of shortening TB treatment.

“We could show that NZX acts against several clinical strains of tuberculosis bacteria. The therapeutic potential of the peptide is further supported in animal models in which NZX significantly reduced the volume of bacteria after only five days of treatment”, says Gabriela Godaly, and continues:

“But as always, basic research requires further confirmatory studies before it’s possible to go on to clinical studies, but we definitely believe that our data on the NZX peptide are promising for future treatment against tuberculosis.”

Publication: A novel derivative of the fungal antimicrobial peptide plectasin is active against Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

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