Tuberculosis is a top infectious disease killer worldwide. It is caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria overcome the immune system defenses and usually attack the lungs, but the infection can also spread in other organs.
In 2014, 9.6 million people fell ill with tuberculosis and 1.5 million died from the disease. Over 95% of tuberculosis deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, representing a leading killer of HIV-positive people: in 2015, 1 in 3 HIV deaths was due to tuberculosis. Last but not least, in 2014 an estimated 480 000 people developed multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, which refers to a form with resistance to at least two anti-tuberculosis drugs (World Health Organization).
The conventional treatment for tuberculosis is based on the use of antibiotics to kill the bacteria. Commonly, anti-tuberculosis therapy takes about 6 to 12 months in order to eliminate mycobacteria from the body. Unfortunately, the development of antibiotic resistance is increasing for nearly every bacteria. In the case of tuberculosis, antibiotic resistance requires daily treatment with multiple anti-tuberculosis drugs for up to two years. The use of multiple anti-tuberculosis drugs has been associated with serious side effects, including liver failure and death.
These data suggest the need to search for new, more effective and less toxic treatment alternatives. Nutrients can improve immune system function and contribute to halting the spread of tuberculosis, e.g.:
- Vitamin C and lysine are important for inhibiting the activity of metalloproteinases (MMP-2 and MMP-9), which are enzymes found to be elevated in tuberculosis patients (MMP-9) and used by bacteria to spread in the body;
- Vitamin C, proline and lysine can prevent MMP-9 production;
- Vitamin C and vitamin E have been shown to accelerate tuberculosis healing;
- The adjunctive use of nutrient supplementation can significantly enhance the efficacy of anti-tuberculosis drugs and contribute to a decrease in the frequency and severity of adverse effects of these drugs;
- Micronutrients are essential for maintaining the structure of the connective tissue, the natural barrier against the spread of infections.