As reported in MedicalResearch.com the World Health Organization estimates that 10.0 million people developed active tuberculosis in 2017, and that 1.6 million people died of this disease. Multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB is caused by bacteria that are resistant to treatment with at least two of the most powerful first-line anti-TB drugs, causing around 500,000 cases and 150,000 deaths per year worldwide. Existing antibiotic treatments for MDR TB are lengthy, costly and often toxic due to their serious side effects.
One novel approach to treating MDR TB is to complement antibiotic treatment by using therapies that boost the immune system’s ability to kill TB bacteria. Vitamin D – the sunshine vitamin – is known to help white blood cells to make natural antibiotic substances (antimicrobial peptides) that can punch holes in the cell membranes of TB bacteria. Several clinical trials have investigated the effects of adding vitamin D to antibiotic treatment for TB.
In this study we pooled data from 8 of these studies (1850 participants) and analyzed them to see if some TB patients benefited more from adding vitamin D to their treatment regimen than others. We found that vitamin D accelerated clearance of TB bacteria from the lungs of patients who had MDR TB; this benefit was not seen in patients who had ‘standard’ drug-sensitive TB.
The lead investigator articulates that the study demonstrates that the addition of vitamin D to antibiotic treatment for MDR TB may accelerate recovery from this disease. However, new clinical trials are needed with a specific focus on patients with MDR-TB to determine with certainty whether addition of vitamin D to antibiotic treatment can benefit patients.
Professor Adrian Martineau, B Med Sci DTM&H MRCP PhD FRSB
Clinical Professor of Respiratory Infection and Immunity
University of London