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Michigan Researchers Believe Ancient Chinese Malaria Remedy Could Also Fight Tuberculosis

Since 2000, efforts to fight malaria across Africa have been able to cut the rate of infections in half. Thanks to an ancient Chinese malaria remedy, the battle against tuberculosis (TB) could enjoy just as much success.

Telegiz reports that tuberculosis is a global epidemic and requires at least six months of treatments. Robert Abramovitch of Michigan State University believes that many tuberculosis patients end up giving up on the treatments because of the length of time it takes to effectively cure the disease.

“When TB bacteria are dormant, they become highly tolerant to antibiotics,” added Abramovitch, who is an assistant professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at MSU. “Blocking dormancy makes the TB bacteria more sensitive to these drugs and could shorten treatment times.”

Abramovitch’s study is published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one-third of the global population is infected with tuberculosis; approximately 1.8 million people died from the disease in 2015 alone.

“TB is a global problem that requires new tools to slow its spread and overcome drug resistance,” Abramovitch added. “This new method of targeting dormant bacteria is exciting because it shows us a new way to kill it.”

Research must continue before any serious success is made, but Abramovitch and other researchers are optimistic that artemisinin will effectively block tuberculosis bacteria. International Business Times states that artemisinin could soon be repurposed for use on humans, but there would have to be resistance precautions.

If we used artemisinin, we would have to make sure that resistance to this medicine does not develop, as is the case today for some malaria patients,” Abromovitch added.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, along with the National Institutes of Health and Michigan State University’s AgBrioResearch, funded the research for the study. Other MSU researchers involved in the study include Benjamin Johnson, Huiqing Zheng, and Christopher Colvin, as well as researchers from the University of Michigan.

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