Singapore: A study has found that metformin (MET), a drug for treating diabetes can also be used to boost the efficacy of tuberculosis (TB) medication without inducing drug resistance.
The findings could lead to a more effective treatment for the infectious disease that kills close to 1.5 million people every year.
"Using MET as an adjunct treatment for TB is very promising since this drug interferes with the biochemical pathway essential for the bacteria's survival and does not promote the development of drug resistance," said Amit Singhal, project leader at Singapore Immunology Network.
TB is an air-borne infectious disease caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium Tuberculosis (Mtb), which often infects the lungs.
Conventional drugs used to treat TB usually adopt a pathogen-targeted strategy which attacks and kills bacteria directly.
This approach has caused Mtb strains to acquire drug resistance.
But the researchers found that MET does not target the bacteria directly. Instead, it targets the host cells to trigger the production of a chemical which then damages Mtb and stops its replication.
Such indirect, host-targeted approach is less likely to cause drug resistance.
The team also discovered that MET improves the efficacy of conventional anti-TB drugs when used in combination with them.
The scientists validated the findings with patient data provided by the Tuberculosis Clinical Unit at the Tan Tock Seng Hospital in Singapore.
"MET is also a very cheap and safe drug with no adverse effect on non-diabetic patients," Singhal added.
The study appeared in the journal Science Translational Medicine.