High blood pressure therapy speeds TB recovery

By combining a drug used to treat high blood pressure and headaches with the standard, daily antibiotic course of therapy for tuberculosis, scientists may have found a more effective way to combat the contagious lung disease.

In mice, scientists at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine tested verapamil, a so-called calcium channel blocker, in combination with the antibiotics isoniazid and rifampin in mice--two common TB drugs. They found that the high blood pressure drug verapamil effectively accelerated treatment of TB. Test animals that received the cocktail were cured of TB in four months instead of the usual 6 months.

After two months of treatment, verapamil accelerated killing of TB bacteria 10-fold. After four months, half of the lung tissue samples from mice receiving verapamil had zero bacterial counts, while all tissue samples in mice not on the blood pressure medication were still positive for TB.

Clinical trials will begin later this year in India, where TB is a huge public health problem.

TB is difficult to treat in part because patients often quit their medication regimen before completing their long courses of treatment and end up developing drug-resistant TB strains. The drug combo tested by the Johns Hopkins team could improve drug adherence and make it easier for infected people to complete their drug therapy as prescribed.

More than 2.2 billion people--a third of the world's population--are infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the deadly bacterium that causes TB. About a million people per year, most of whom live in developing nations, die from TB each year.

- here's the study abstract
- read the press release