Your high-end bathroom accessory may hold the cure for one of the world’s deadliest diseases.
Researchers at the University of Central Florida and Florida Atlantic University are working to isolate chemical extracts in sea sponges that could kill tuberculosis bacteria. The team of scientists identified 26 compounds that could kill replicating tuberculosis, seven of which were also effective against dormant TB bacteria.
TB is one of the world’s top 10 deadliest diseases–killing an estimated 1.4 to 1.8 million people in 2015–and is notoriously difficult to cure. Treatment times can last from six to nine months and involve thousands of pills. Instead of completing the entire treatment process, many TB patients will stop taking the medication when they feel better. This can cause the bacteria to hide in their immune system, meaning that the host is still infectious and the disease could reappear.
Another problem with treating TB is antibiotic drug resistance. If physicians incorrectly prescribe treatment plans or if patients fail to complete the course, drug-resistant TB can spread, complicating the situation for patients and doctors.
If the scientists are able to derive a chemical compound from the sea sponges that kills both replicating and dormant bacteria, this could advance medical research significantly. Even if a strain of drug-resistant TB develops against this antibiotic, scientists can examine how the sea sponge compounds are able to kill dormant tuberculosis bacteria and develop new antibiotic strategies. Killing both types of TB would bring the world closer to eradicating the disease altogether. However, developing a drug from the sea sponges could take 10 years or more.