New York: A common medication used to treat glaucoma – an eye disorder that causing gradual loss of sight – could also be used to treat tuberculosis, even the drug-resistant kind, says a new study.

Ethoxzolamide, a sulfa-based compound found in many prescription glaucoma drugs, actually turns off the bacterium’s ability to invade the immune system, the findings showed.

“Basically, ethoxzolamide stops TB from deploying its weapons…shutting down its ability to grow inside certain white blood cells in the immune system,” said Robert Abramovitch from Michigan State University in the US.

“We found the compound reduces disease symptoms in mice,” Abramovitch pointed out.

The research was published in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

According to Abramovitch, TB bacterium may not have eyes and ears, but it has the uncanny ability to sense certain environmental cues in the body and adapt.

One of these cues includes the infection’s ability to detect pH – or acidity levels – which tells the disease it is being attacked by a host immune cell.

“The compound we found inhibits TB’s ability to detect acidic environments, effectively blindfolding the bacterium so it cannot resist the immune system’s assault,” Abramovitch explained.

This elusive compound not only has the potential of preventing the disease from spreading, but it could help shorten the length of treatment and slow the emergence of drug resistance, particularly if found to work in conjunction with other existing TB drugs, the study suggested.

Current treatments can last up to six months.

“The single biggest reason for the evolution of drug-resistant strains is the long course of treatment,” Abramovitch pointed out.

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