New York: Researchers led by an Indian-origin scientist have developed a new drug that may serve as a treatment against multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, a form of the disease that cannot be cured with conventional therapies.

"Multi-drug resistant TB is spreading rapidly in many parts of the world," said lead author Vasu Nair, director, University of Georgia (UGA) Center for Drug Discovery.

Tuberculosis treatment
Representational picture

"There is a tremendous need for new therapies, and we think our laboratory has developed a strong candidate that disrupts fundamental steps in the bacterium's reproduction process," Nair added.

Nine million people contracted tuberculosis in 2013, and 1.5 million died from the disease, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

While standard anti-TB drugs can cure most people of Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection, improper use of antibiotics has led to new strains of the bacterium resistant to the two most powerful medications, isoniazid and rifampicin.

"The compound we developed strongly inhibits the growth of the bacterium and renders it incapable of reproducing and spreading infection," Nair pointed out.

The researchers also performed extensive studies to determine if their newly developed compound had an appropriately long half-life and could be cleared from the body through normal biochemical mechanisms.

"More importantly, the compound shows very low levels of cytotoxicity, which means that it is not harmful to the body," Nair added.

The researchers found that the new compund also exhibited strong anti-HIV properties, opening the door for dual therapeutic applications.

"This discovery of dual activity against both retroviruses and drug-resistant gram-positive bacteria is unique and opens a new chapter in drug discovery in this area," Nair said.

The study was published in the journal Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters.