Repurposed medications enhance tuberculosis treatment in mice

IMAGE: Matrix metalloproteinase inhibitors improves blood vessel health in TB-infected lungs to enhance drug delivery. view more 

Credit: Yitian Xu

Drugs known as matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) inhibitors–originally developed for other uses, such as cancer treatment–enhance antibiotic treatment of tuberculosis in mice, according to new research published in PLOS Pathogens by Yitian Xu of Cornell University and colleagues.

Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium responsible for tuberculosis, kills almost two million people every year. While effective anti-tuberculosis drugs exist, they must be taken for six to nine months, and the difficulty of adhering to treatment during that extended period can promote emergence of drug-resistant strains.

Shortening the tuberculosis treatment period could reduce drug resistance and save lives, and previous research has hinted that adding MMP inhibitors, drugs originally created to combat cancer and other diseases involving connective tissue, could boost the power of standard tuberculosis antibiotics. However, the results of these efforts have been mixed.

To clarify the potential of MMP inhibitors, Xu and colleagues systematically tested them in mice infected with M. tuberculosis. This bacterium causes major changes to host tissue at the site of infection, usually in the lungs. It triggers the immune system to form protective structures known as


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