Scientists hoping to find new treatments for one of the worlds most deadly infectious diseases say drugs used to treat common fungal infections may provide the answer.
Tuberculosis, or TB, is a highly contagious disease of the lungs that was thought to have been virtually eliminated by the 1960s, but is now resurgent and kills nearly two million people worldwide every year. New infections are occurring at a rate of one per second.
Of equal concern is the dramatic rise in the incidence of new strains of TB that are resistant to traditional antibiotics. As a result, the World Health Organisation, the Bill Gates Foundation and the European Union have all launched initiatives to tackle the problem.
Now, biologists at The University of Manchester have shown that chemicals called azoles the active agent in many antifungal drugs kill the TB bacteria, and could be effective in tackling the emerging drug-resistant strains.
"TB is back with a vengeance with a third of the worlds population currently infected," said Professor Andrew Munro, who led the research in Manchesters Faculty of Life Sciences.
"The bacterium survives the initial attack by the bodys immune system and then lies dormant, usually in the lungs, waiting for any sign of weakness, such as a secondary infection. Its resurgence over the last 20 years has been closely associated with the AIDS epidemic, which destroys the human immune system and has allowed TB to get a grip once again."
London is the TB capital of Europe, although most large cities here and in North America have seen rapid increases in the number of TB infections. However, the problem is most acute in Africa and Asia where HIV/AIDS is also most prolific and a shortage of traditional TB medicines and problems with patient compliance has led to the emergence of drug-resistant strains of the disease.