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Aspirin to fight a global killer infection
Aspirin is undoubtedly one of the best known pain relievers, especially when it comes to headaches. The active ingredient acetylsalicylic acid has been used for over 100 years and is known for its pain relieving, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory and blood-thinning effects. But the popular pain reliever can do even more: Australian researchers recently found that aspirin works against the most dangerous infectious disease in the world: tuberculosis.
The Centenary Institute recently showed in a study that aspirin is suitable for the treatment of tuberculosis. This is particularly interesting in the treatment of the increasingly widespread resistant form of the disease, in which antibiotics no longer work. The study results were published in the "Journal of Infectious Diseases".
Tuberculosis is the deadliest infectious disease in the world
In 2018, the WHO stated in a report that tuberculosis is the most serious infectious disease of our time. Every year around 10 million people fall ill with the severe lung disease. 1.6 million people die from it. The antibiotic-resistant form, which affected around 558,000 people in 2017, is seen as a particular threat. The most effective tuberculosis drugs can no longer help with this type of disease.
Who would have thought that the well-tried aspirin of all things can help here? The Australian research team led by Dr. Stefan Oehlers recognized from the animal model a previously unknown disease process caused by the tuberculosis bacteria. Acetylsalicylic acid can suppress this process and thus support the immune system in the fight against the pathogen.
Tuberculosis bacteria hijack platelets
The researchers at the Centenary Institute used zebrafish to document how tuberculosis bacteria take platelets (thrombocytes) out of the body's blood coagulation system and thus weaken our immune system. Using fluorescence microscopy, the team was able to observe the formation of blood clots and the activation of platelets around the infection sites.
Blood thinners help fight tuberculosis
This led to the assumption that the tuberculosis pathogens stimulate blood platelets to obstruct the body's immune system. In further experiments, the researchers investigated how the bacteria behave when the blood is treated with a blood-thinning agent such as aspirin. Due to the blood-thinning effect, the tuberculosis pathogens were no longer able to influence the platelets as effectively, which ultimately led to the bacteria being better able to be fought by the immune system.
Aspirin as a newly discovered lifesaver
"The zebra fish gives us previously unknown insights into the disease process of tuberculosis," reports Dr. Stefan Oehlers in a press release on the study results. For the first time, the team was able to observe the interaction of cells in real time, thereby drawing conclusions about the course of the disease. "It opens up the possibility that antiplatelet medication could be used to support the immune system in fighting drug-resistant tuberculosis," added the lead study author Dr. Elinor Hortle. The study provides crucial evidence that commonly available aspirin can be used to treat severe tuberculosis and thus save lives. (vb)