In the past 50 years, only one new tuberculosis drug has come on to the market, yet many more active substances are urgently needed.
Current treatments increasingly fail due to multidrug-resistant pathogens. ETH researchers have now applied to patent a novel approach for developing new tuberculosis drugs.
Consumption was one of the worst known diseases of the 18th century. Thanks to medical advances, the number of deaths from this lung disease – which is today known as tuberculosis – has declined significantly. Efforts to eradicate the disease in the 1950s and 1960s resulted in a wide range of new drugs entering the market.
And yet 1.4 million people still continue to die each year from tuberculosis. Multidrug-resistant strains of the disease-causing pathogen are especially dangerous because they can no longer be treated with today’s drugs (see box). “In the past 50 years, only one new tuberculosis drug has come on to the market, and that was in 2012,” says Karl-Heinz Altmann, Professor of Pharmaceutical Biology at ETH Zurich. New active substances that are able to kill multidrug-resistant strains of the disease are therefore urgently needed. Altmann and his team have now laid the foundation for new tuberculosis drugs, and they were inspired by a bacteria-derived antibiotic called pyridomycin.