“When TB bacteria are dormant, they become highly tolerant to antibiotics,” says Robert Abramovitch, a microbiologist and assistant professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Michigan State University. “Blocking dormancy makes the TB bacteria more sensitive to these drugs and could shorten treatment times.”
One-third of the world’s population is infected with TB and the disease killed 1.8 million people in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Can take 6 months to treat
Abramovitch indicated that dormant TB can remain inactive for decades in the body. But if the immune system weakens at some point, it can wake back up and spread. Whether it wakes up or stays ‘asleep’ though, he says TB can take up to six months to treat and is one of the main reasons the disease is so difficult to control.
“Patients often don’t stick to the treatment regimen because of the length of time it takes to cure the disease,” he says. “Incomplete therapy plays an important role in the evolution and spread of multi-drug resistant TB strains.”
The research could be key to shortening the course of therapy because it can clear out the dormant, hard-to-kill bacteria, he adds. This could lead to improving patient outcomes and slowing the evolution of drug-resistant TB.