Vitamin C TB: Scientists In 'Disbelief' After Finding Simple Way To Kill Tuberculosis

By iScienceTimes Staff on May 22, 2013 5:14 PM EDT

TB
Scientists managed to kill tuberculosis in a lab using vitamin C, the "totally unexpected" result of testing TB for something else. (Photo: Reuters)

Scientists said yesterday that they managed to kill tuberculosis using vitamin C, a "totally unexpected" result of testing the bacteria for something else entirely.

Scientists from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York made the discovery while trying to figure out how TB bacteria became resistant to isoniazid, a TB drug.

When the researchers added isoniazid and the reducing agent cysteine to a test tube filled with TB, they expected the TB to resist the isoniazid. But to the surprise of the team, the TB was killed off. The team then tried adding isoniazid and vitamin C to TB test tube. Once again, the TB was killed off.

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"I was in disbelief," said the study's senior author, William Jacobs. Even more surprisingly, Jacobs said, "When we left out the TB drug isoniazid and just had vitamin C alone, we discovered that vitamin C kills tuberculosis."

Jacobs cautioned that so far he and his team have only been able to use vitamin C to kill off TB in a test tube. Animals and humans are, of course, a different story, but Jacobs believes that researchers now have a rational bases for doing clinical trials.

"This would be a great study to consider because we have strains of tuberculosis that we don't have drugs for," Jacobs said. "It also helps that we know vitamin C is inexpensive, widely available and very safe to use. At the very least, this work shows us a new mechanism that we can exploit to attack TB."

In 2011, about 8.7 million people worldwide contracted TB, a contagious lung disease, with 1.4 million dying, according to the World Health Organization. Multidrug-resistant TB is a major issue, with some 650,000 people worldwide afflicted with the disease. TB is found especially in low income places, with more than 95 percent of TB-related deaths coming from poor countries.

The paper, thrillingly titled "Mycobacterium tuberculosis is extraordinarily sensitive to killing by a vitamin C-induced Fenton reaction," was published in Nature Communications.

This is the second time this week that vitamins have been found to treat diseases where more obvious, expensive medical solutions have failed. A study published on Monday found that vitamin B may be the key to delaying Alzheimer's disease.

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