Tuberculosis is an infection by the organism Mycobacterium Tuberculosis, it mainly affects the respiratory system but it can spread to other organs as well. Treatment of Tuberculosis requires a combination drug approach of 6 months with four major drugs, Isoniazid, Rifampicin, Ethambutol, and Pyrazinamide. However, some forms of TB are resistant to even the combination approach and require treatment for longer durations, thereby prolonging the disease process as well.
The Sunshine Vitamin
In such cases, the use of Vitamin D along with Anti-Tuberculosis management has been recently experimented with. This new approach accelerated the clearance of the bacteria and its sequelae from the lungs. These findings come from a recent study conducted by the Queen Mary University of London on 1,850 patients who were also receiving antibiotic therapy for Tuberculosis simultaneously.
Professor Adrian Martineau from the Queen Mary University of London and lead researcher of the study stated: “Multi-drug resistant TB is on the rise globally. It’s notoriously difficult to treat, and it carries a much worse prognosis than standard TB.
“Our study raises the possibility that vitamin D — which is very safe and inexpensive — could benefit this hard-to-treat group of patients by taking a novel approach to their treatment. By adding vitamin D to antibiotic treatment, we can boost the immune system to help the body to clear TB bugs, rather than relying on antibiotics on their own to kill the bacteria directly.”
“This is a novel approach, as it contrasts with the conventional tactic of developing new antibiotics in an attempt to keep up with the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria — an arms race that is proving hard for us to win.”
According to the estimates of the World Health Organisation, in the year 2017 alone, 10.0 million people developed active tuberculosis, among which the total mortality was 1.6 million people.
The major cause behind the high mortality is Multi-drug resistant MDR TB, which is caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. These bacteria causing MDR TB are resistant to treatment with at least two of the most powerful first-line anti-TB drugs. Aggressive treatment with combination antibiotics is required for MDR TB, which can be toxic to the patients. In addition to the toxic effects of antibiotics, the treatment is quite costly and lengthy.
The study showed Vitamin D’s potential in giving the immune system of MDR TB patients the required boost. However, randomized control trials produced conflicting results regarding the efficacy and significance of Vitamin D in TB treatment.
Participants: 1,850 TB patients who took part in clinical trials of vitamin D in eight countries (the UK, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Mongolia, Republic of Georgia, and Guinea Bissau)
Objective: To study the role of Vitamin D in the clearance of bacteria in MDR TB
Methodology: The researchers analyzed particular groups of patients who responded better to vitamin D than others.
Results: When added to antibiotic treatment, vitamin D was found to accelerate TB clearance specifically in patients with MDR TB, even though no acceleration of TB clearance was seen when looking at the entire study population as a whole.
The vitamin D supplementation was also found to be safe at the doses administered, with no links to serious adverse events.