Undersea Life Treats TB: Medicine’s Next Big Thing?


ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Tuberculosis, or TB, is a serious bacterial infection that attacks the lungs. It affects one-third of the global population and has been making a comeback here in the United States. Now, researchers at two different Florida universities are teaming up to see if a better treatment could be buried deep in the ocean.

The hidden treasure that these researchers are scouring the ocean for is not gold but a new therapy for the dangerous and deadly bacterial infection TB.

Kyle Rohde, PhD, Assistant Professor at the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences from the University of Central Florida said, “There’s estimated about nine million new cases every year and it leads to about one and a half million deaths per year.” (Read Full Interview)

Treatment for most strains of TB involves a cocktail of multiple drugs for six to nine months, but there are an increasing number of drug-resistant strains.

“About half the people who get a multi-drug resistant TB infection will die from it. And we don’t really have good drugs for that,” said Amy Wright, PhD, a research professor from Florida Atlantic University.

That’s why researchers are going to unusual depths for new answers.

“There’s a long successful track record of nature already providing the chemicals that we might use as antibiotics and the marine environment in particular is underexplored.” Rohde explained.

Wright collects samples of sea sponges and soft coral.  Her team extracts natural chemical products within these organisms and sends those samples to Rohde. So far, Rohde has tested about 45 hundred different marine samples.

“We think that allowed us to find a few that seemed to selectively target those bacteria that we think mimic the hard to kill one during infection,” Rohde said.

The samples that do show promise are sent back to Wright. Her team figures out the structure of the compound.

“Then the next step would be to synthesize it and maybe optimize the structure so it gives an even better activity against TB,” explained Wright.

And further down the line, a new drug.

Both Rohde and Wright say one of the reasons TB is hard to treat is because the treatment regimen is very long. Patients will stop taking the antibiotics once they feel better, but they still have the infection. If they are able to find a more potent antibiotic, then that may lead to a shorter treatment period.

Contributors to this news report include: Milvionne Chery, Field Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Hayley Hudson, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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BACKGROUND: Tuberculosis (TB) is a potentially serious infectious disease that mainly affects your lungs. The bacteria that cause tuberculosis are spread from one person to another through tiny droplets released into the air via coughs and sneezes. Once rare in developed countries, tuberculosis infections began increasing in 1985, partly because of the emergence of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. HIV weakens a person’s immune system, so it can’t fight the TB germs. In the United States, because of stronger control programs, tuberculosis began to decrease again in 1993, but remains a concern. Many strains of tuberculosis resist the drugs most used to treat the disease. People with active tuberculosis must take several types of medications for many months to eradicate the infection and prevent development of antibiotic resistance.

(Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tuberculosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351250)


SIGNS & TREATMENT:  Signs and symptoms of active TB include: coughing that lasts three or more weeks, coughing up blood, chest pain, or pain with breathing or coughing, unintentional weight loss, fatigue, fever, night sweats, chills, and loss of appetite. Tuberculosis can also affect other parts of your body, including your kidneys, spine or brain. When TB occurs outside your lungs, signs and symptoms vary according to the organs involved. With tuberculosis, you must take antibiotics for at least six to nine months. The exact drugs and length of treatment depend on your age, overall health, possible drug resistance, the form of TB and the infection’s location in the body. Recent research suggests that a shorter term of treatment, four months instead of nine, with combined medication may be effective in keeping latent TB from becoming active TB. With the shorter course of treatment, people are more likely to take all their medication, and the risk of side effects is lessened. Serious side effects of TB drugs aren’t common but can be dangerous when they do occur. All tuberculosis medications can be highly toxic to your liver.

(Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tuberculosis/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20351256)


NEW RESEARCH: Kyle Rohde, PhD, an Assistant Professor in the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences at UCF who works with infectious diseases is researching a new treatment under the sea. He explained, “There’s a long successful track record of nature already providing the chemicals that we might use as antibiotics. And the marine environment in particular is under explored and has a high level of biodiversity. The more diversity you have in the source of drugs that you’re looking at, the more likely you are to find something novel and new. That’s one of our main goals is to find new drugs that kill TB in different ways than the current drugs.”

(Source: Kyle Rohde, PhD)



Christin Senior, Media Relations



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Doctor Q and A

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