Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Medicine Science

Scientists Find Vitamin C Kills Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis 105

Posted by Soulskill
from the if-only-we-could-get-vitamin-C-into-common-foods dept.
AndyKrish writes "A BBC story reports that scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University found Vitamin C kills drug resistant tuberculosis (abstract). Though results are preliminary — the lead investigator of the study said, 'We have only been able to demonstrate this in a test tube, and we don't know if it will work in humans and in animals' — this is an exciting development in the fight against drug-resistant TB."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Scientists Find Vitamin C Kills Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis

Comments Filter:
  • Vitamin C... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sconeu (64226) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @04:30PM (#43797261) Homepage Journal

    Somewhere in heaven, Linus Pauling [wikipedia.org] is laughing his head off...

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      I was about to comment the same... With an "aPauling" pun. ;-)

      Really, this will likely be quickly quashed by the Pharmas. Or they will patent a delivery transport - with the only FDA-approved administration protocol.

      • Re:Vitamin C... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by D1G1T (1136467) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @04:55PM (#43797463)
        Seeing as how most TB is in places where FDA has no jurisdiction, I don't think that will be a problem.
      • I was about to comment the same... With an "aPauling" pun. ;-)

        Really, this will likely be quickly quashed by the Pharmas. Or they will patent a delivery transport - with the only FDA-approved administration protocol.

        "Hey, that guy's holding an assault orange!

        GIT 'EM!"

      • I was about to comment the same... With an "aPauling" pun. ;-)

        Really, this will likely be quickly quashed by the Pharmas. Or they will patent a delivery transport - with the only FDA-approved administration protocol.

        Unless the delivery transport makes a clinically relevant difference(in which case it would be as deserving of a patent as any medical innovation), how would patenting a transport help them?

        Vitamin C is easily available in a number of flavors, some not by prescription, some of the more injectable ones possibly prescription only, and any doctor authorized to prescribe anything can 'off label' pretty much anything that won't either have the DEA on his ass or get his malpractice insurer to cancel his policy...

        • by idontgno (624372)

          Whether GP was joking or not, you have to wonder if the pharmas won't try something analogous to clawing public domain works back under copyright. Which, as any dipshit can tell you, should never happen. Except it does. [nytimes.com]

          • Whether GP was joking or not, you have to wonder if the pharmas won't try something analogous to clawing public domain works back under copyright. Which, as any dipshit can tell you, should never happen. Except it does. [nytimes.com]

            I'm sure that they'd love to(though TB is kind of a lousy disease as ROI potential goes. Virtually all the cases are in poor or marginal populations, so the customers tend to have only enough money to sporadically take drugs and develop resistant strains, and the first-world high rollers are negligible. Also, because the morbidity and mortality are so significant in poor countries, and the public health concern over drug resistance so great, a new TB drug would be an attractive target for generic production

        • by tnk1 (899206)

          He's just suffering from an overdose of Vitamin C-ynical.

      • Re:Vitamin C... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Bowling Moses (591924) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @05:34PM (#43797831) Journal
        "Really, this will likely be quickly quashed by the Pharmas. Or they will patent a delivery transport - with the only FDA-approved administration protocol."

        Those actions are pretty much diametrically opposed. Option one, quash something that's already known presumably by managing to get a hold of the IP (good luck) and then sitting on it for years using a minimum of effort and cost. Option two, take something that works only on tuberculosis culture, do the R&D to make it work in humans, get it through clinical trials, then manufacture it and try to make a profit. Tuberculosis is a grand master at hide and go seek. It lives inside of human cells part of the time so delivering the vitamin C/vitamin C derivative is non-trivial. Even for a pathogen hanging out nekkid in the bloodstream the delivery of the drug to its target is non-trivial, 10 years and $1 billion of R&D is the rule of thumb to get to FDA approval from early stage research.
      • by mark-t (151149)
        How do you quash a publicly known vitamin?
      • My dandruff shampoo, Nizoral [wikipedia.org],is not FDA approved to regrow hair in humans, but that doesn't mean I'm shaving off those un-approved hairs that are regrow on my bald spot. Also since vitamin C has a long history of being recognized to aid the body's fighting of infections, I doubt this could be patented.

    • by tloh (451585)

      Lets not be too smug just yet. Once upon a time I, too, was a Pauling groupie. But good science stands up to scrutiny. Very smart people will be looking this over and asking tough questions. Lets wait a bit before we all jump for joy and contemplate the "C" word.

      • Re:Vitamin C... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @05:06PM (#43797573)
        Well, to be fair, most organisms in a test tube can be killed by putting in a lot of acid (vitamin C being ascorbic acid). The key thing is that you can't significantly change the pH of the blood / body without causing problems in the host. It is easy to kill shit in a test tube.
        • The key thing is that you can't significantly change the pH of the blood / body without causing problems in the host.

          Well, basically, here you're just reiterating your former point that anything can be killed by using enough acid. :-)

        • by nbauman (624611)

          http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-22614522 [bbc.co.uk]

          Lead investigator Dr William Jacobs, professor of microbiology and immunology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University, said: "We have only been able to demonstrate this in a test tube, and we don't know if it will work in humans and in animals.

        • Re:Vitamin C... (Score:5, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @07:22PM (#43798659)

          Well, to be fair, most organisms in a test tube can be killed by putting in a lot of acid (vitamin C being ascorbic acid)

          Actually, just vitamin C is Ascorbate.

          Ascorbate by itself is relatively unstable. Adding a hydrogen atom stabilizes it and makes it Ascorbic Acid which is probably the most common form of vitamin C.

          But you can add other atoms to it like Calcium, Sodium or Magnesium, which would make non-acidic, but still bioactive, forms of vitamin C.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      Lots of stuff kills cells in a dish. Until they demonstrate this in vivo, it's not even worth discussing.

  • by spamchang (302052) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @04:33PM (#43797295) Journal

    No context given in the article, but here's the abstract:

    "Drugs that kill tuberculosis more quickly could shorten chemotherapy significantly. In Escherichia coli, a common mechanism of cell death by bactericidal antibiotics involves the generation of highly reactive hydroxyl radicals via the Fenton reaction. Here we show that vitamin C, a compound known to drive the Fenton reaction, sterilizes cultures of drug-susceptible and drug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of tuberculosis. While M. tuberculosis is highly susceptible to killing by vitamin C, other Gram-positive and Gram-negative pathogens are not. The bactericidal activity of vitamin C against M. tuberculosis is dependent on high ferrous ion levels and reactive oxygen species production, and causes a pleiotropic effect affecting several biological processes. This study enlightens the possible benefits of adding vitamin C to an anti-tuberculosis regimen and suggests that the development of drugs that generate high oxidative burst could be of great use in tuberculosis treatment."

    So you need ferrous ions as well. Interesting things to have in your lungs, but it's a start.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      eat a lot of liver then take a massive dose of C, that should do it....

  • by enigmatic (122657) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @04:39PM (#43797353)

    So.. Did someone just catch up on the later seasons?

    • Probably the same researchers who recently discovered that babies learn through mimicry...

      (Can't remember if I saw that one on Slashdot or Yahoo)

    • Wasn't that polio, not TB? I haven't watched House in years. And it was a hoax even in the episode.
  • by Andrio (2580551) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @04:45PM (#43797389)
    Why are researchers wasting time with non patentable medicine? This is madness!
  • by iggymanz (596061) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @04:45PM (#43797391)

    and bears shit in the woods. story at 10

  • Even if it works, in short order we'll have vitamin C resistant tuberculosis. Next up, miracle cure X, and cure X resistant tuberculosis. I'm all for miracle cures, but let's keep in mind that all viruses and parasites mutate to deal with our cures.
    • by mark-t (151149)

      Possibly.

      You're aware that Vitamin C occurs entirely naturally though, right?

      Something developing a resistance to a vitamin is not as serious in terms of health as it would be if it developed resistance to a man-made treatment.

  • Yes, if you use enough acid it will kill just about anything.

  • ... it appears that boiling and/or roasting the sample also kills Drug-Resistant TB. However, researchers caution that:

    We have only been able to demonstrate this in a test tube, and we don't know if it will work in humans and in animals ...

  • Vitamin C is ascorbic acid and is used as a preservative in foodstuff for a reason (with the added bonus of not counting as preservative and sounding healthy enough to even advertise it on the packaging).

    Well, maybe this is too simple. But many of these test tube results prove to be pretty meaningless because getting up to the needed concentrations in a living patient would kill him faster than the actual illness.

  • by raynet (51803) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @05:00PM (#43797523) Homepage

    Sigh, it is almost too easy to kill stuff in test tube, HIV can be killed with garlic. It is quite rare to get it to work in a living being. Unfortunately this article will bring out the anti-vaccers, germ theory deniers and other woowoo people out of the woodworks...

  • Really?!?! (Score:2, Funny)

    by freeze128 (544774)
    Albert Einstein College of Medicine? I don't think medicine is what that guy is famous for.... That's almost like winning the Adolf Hitler humanitarian award.
    • Hehe. This genuinely made me lol.

    • You mean like the Alfred Nobel PEACE prize?
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        In case other readers didn't understand the humor, Alfred Nobel [wikipedia.org] invented dynamite and other explosives. That's why a peace prize in his name may sound funny and contradictory.

        • Re:Really?!?! (Score:4, Informative)

          by F.Ultra (1673484) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @06:33PM (#43798281)
          But he didn't invent it for warfare, he invented it to make mining easier, once he saw that people would use his invention for warfare he was horrified and thus invented the peace price.
          • But he didn't invent it for warfare, he invented it to make mining easier, once he saw that people would use his invention for warfare he was horrified and thus invented the peace price.

            That's giving Alfred Nobel too much credit. He owned the world renowned arms manufacturer Bofors and actually changed the company more towards arms manufacture than before. It wasn't until a French paper erroneously printed his obituary where he as lambasted as a "merchant of death", that he became concerned with his legacy. (If I remember correctly his peace prize was added at a later date to his will, there was also a woman involved, isn't there always?).

            So no, he was about as far from a long haired hippi

            • by F.Ultra (1673484)
              Yes but Bofors was not that renowned when he owned it. Anyways I guess that it's easy to get carried away as an inventor and not really seeing the reality and thus needing a wake up call which the French obituary provided. To his credit this actually changed his mind!
    • The story goes like this:
      The founders wanted Dr Einsteins name, so several professors and big shots ($) wen to see albert, who was at Princeton
      Founders: Dr Einstein, we would like to name our new medical school after you
      AE: well, I'm not sure...I'm not a doctor
      Founders: well, we could name it after pasteur
      AE: what does Pasteur have to do with a jewish school (AECOM is legal subsidiary of Yeshiva University)
      Founders: well, in taht case, how about W Harvey
      AE: but he is british
      Founders: well the, we will go wi

  • by EvilSS (557649) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @05:08PM (#43797597)
    ....in a test tube.
  • What?? FTA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bjdevil66 (583941) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @05:19PM (#43797709)

    "An estimated 650,000 people worldwide have multidrug-resistant TB..."

    So, every one of those 650,000 people aren't drinking enough orange juice?

    "We have only been able to demonstrate this in a test tube, and we don't know if it will work in humans and in animals."

    Oh, ok. When they come up with a Vitamin C IV drip cocktail or an inhaler/vaporizer that when used it kills TB and actually cures someone, then that will be news. Until then, we can at least look on the bright side: You can't hurt yourself by taking too much Vitamin C nearly as easily as you can with others like Vitamin A, etc. Someone out there is gonna hear that "Vitamin C kills TB" on the interwebs and OD on it, sooner or later.

    • by compro01 (777531)

      Someone out there is gonna hear that "Vitamin C kills TB" on the interwebs and OD on it, sooner or later.

      ODing on vitamin C would take some doing. The predicted LD50 is about 12 grams per kilogram. You'd be more likely to die from choking on it than from ODing on it.

      • by CHIT2ME (2667601)
        ODing on Vitamin C is not the problem, it's the rebound scurvy that you get after taking high doses of Vitamin C and then stopping. Scurvy is nasty stuff. Read up on it.
        • by Rosyna (80334)

          ODing on Vitamin C is not the problem.

          It's quite the problem and quite difficult. When the human body has too much vitamin C, it starts getting rid of the excess through anal leakage.

          Anal leakage, ftw!

    • by narcc (412956)

      So, every one of those 650,000 people aren't drinking enough orange juice?

      Sure, why not? Pretending that drinking enough OJ will cure or prevent TB for the moment, it's possible that there would have been many more people with multidrug-resistant TB, but a glass of tasty juice stopped those other cases cold.

      I get the incredulity, but 650,000 doesn't seem so big when you consider the population of the entire world.

    • by dublin (31215)

      So, every one of those 650,000 people aren't drinking enough orange juice?

      No, the reality is far, far worse than that - roughly *none* of the humans (or guinea pigs, oddly enough) currently living on this planet gets enough vitamin C.

      All humans carry a genetic defect that cripples the mechanism nearly all other mammals use to synthesize vitamin C. I'm not in favor of genetic engineering of humans, but this is the thing that brings me closest to backing the concept.

      A "homo sapiens ascorbicus" would be a rea

      • by adolf (21054)

        Please define "enough."

        I was under the impression that I get way more than "enough" vitamin C just by eating an American diet. In particular, preserved foods often contain it on purpose (ascorbic acid is an extremely common preservative).

      • our species has been evolving for what - the last million or so years without a functional gene for synthesis of Vit C ?
        if you now re introduce that gene, what will happen ?
        perhaps we have evolved to deal wit low levels of vitamin c, and having high, continuous levels would now be toxic....aside from the fact that we don't really know how to do safe genetic engineering in humans yet (I assert this...google R Young white head)

    • by LF11 (18760)

      Vitamin C IVs are well known and used. The practical upper limit for oral vitamin C is somewhere around 10-15 grams for an average adult. Why? You get the shits like crazy. IV vitamin C is a little different, and you can actually administer much higher doses by bypassing the gut.

      LF

  • Although it's little-known outside orthomolecular medicine circles (Linus Pauling and Albert Szent-Györgyi (the discoverer of the Vitamin C/Krebs cycle) were two prominent members of the orthomolecular medicine community), Dr. Fred Klenner [doctoryourself.com] successfully cured several many polio patients in the late '40s and early '50s, using megadoses of acsorbic acid (nominally the same as vitamin C). A good number of these were advanced enough that they should have died or at the very least been crippled for life by

    • Another reference, to Boissevin and Sillane, dates back to 1937.
    • by cinnamon colbert (732724) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @10:26PM (#43799755) Journal

      When I was a graduate student in a molecular biology program in the late 80s or early 90s, i heard, in person, Linus talk
      the professors at my institution were pretty sarcastic, but one thing linus said stuck in my brain:

      I take 10 grams a day, because if you look at how much vitamin C is in the blood of our closest animal relatives, chimps and gorillas, a human would need to take 10 grams a day to get the same level in the blood...but don't buy it from the drugstore , it is very exspensive, i buy it in 10 pound drums from a chemical company in cleveland OH (or maybe Akron)

      of course, humans and guinea pigs are very unsusal in that they require vitamin c in the diet; almost all other mammals can make their own.

      • by jw3 (99683)

        The problem is that anything above 400mg / day gets quickly removed from our organism. So no, we are not chimps (and btw, chimps also can't synthesise vitamin C naturally), and our organisms know pretty well how much vitamin C is needed.

        Pauling specifically believed that overdose of vitamin C can prevent cancer. It was a very interesting hypothesis, and it was very important to test it. However, several large prospective studies undertaken in the 80's have, unfortunately for all of us, falsified that claim.

  • Three 2 gram doses before meals.

    It's anecdotal, but I haven't been sick for more than 36 hours in 20 years (half my life, no cold or flu), but only taking C and other supplements for the past few years. Since having children I have gotten short sicknesses more often, but that's because they incubate the stuff and pass on heavy doses to me (in my opinion).

    I also have to mention that I got sick a lot as a young kid (flu and other nasal related infections). That's probably the reason my immune system is what

    • by ChrisMaple (607946) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @07:42PM (#43798775)
      Large doses, particularly ascorbic acid, may promote diarrhea. Non-acidic forms like calcium ascorbate, sodium ascorbate, and ascorbyl palmitate, are more tolerable. YMMV.
    • by dalias (1978986)
      It should be noted that doses this high will have a (possibly wanted or unwanted) contraceptive effect by early miscarriage, so women wanting to become or remain pregnant should not take such doses.
    • by jw3 (99683) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @05:30AM (#43801171) Homepage

      6000 mg vitamin C daily, not counting vitamin C in the food? That is a lot. Consult your physician and be very, very cautious about suggesting medical advice if you are not prepared to take moral and financial responsibility for it. Yes, vitamin C is important. Yes, increased intake of vitamin C has been show to have several health benefits, including reduced stroke and cardiovascular disease risks, especially in smokers. However, "increased intake" means "well below 1g/day".

      6000 is 30-100 times the recommended daily dose. Although studies indicate that vitamin C intake at 2-4 g/day may not have large adverse effects (1), one has to be extremely cautious when recommending supplementing your diet by a 100x of a daily dose. The fact that you don't experience any adverse effects such as kidney stones (at least yet) does not mean that a person reading your comment will not suffer from that either.

      Apart from the problems with the digestive tract, vitamin C can hamper endurance in physical exercises (2). Moreover, vitamin C not used by the organism (which requires as little as 100-200mg / day) is excreted (3). For that, it is metabolised to oxalic acid, which in turn can cause kidney stones (4 and the references therein). So yes, although problems with vit. C overdose do not seem to be common and are not comparable to overdoses of some other vitamins, at 6g/d saying that "C can't hurt" is very risky (especially as supplements can contain other vitamins as well, and the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K can cause severe adverse effects -- vitamine poisoning -- when overdosed).

      The highest risk-free level of daily intake for vitamine C has been recently proposed to be 1000 mg (1g) (5, 6). People, before you install some shady software someone recommends at a biology-oriented website, ask your IT friend for advice. Before your follow medical advice from Slashdot, consult your physician.

      "Rational by choice."

      Prove it. Read the evidence based medical studies rather than trusting and spreading anecdotes.

      (1) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1753-4887.1999.tb06926.x/abstract [wiley.com]
      (2) http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/87/1/142.short [nutrition.org]
      (3) http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/69/6/1086.short [nutrition.org]
      (4) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.1365-2362.1998.00349.x/full [wiley.com]
      (5) http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=189543 [jamanetwork.com]
      (6) http://www.pnas.org/content/93/8/3704.short [pnas.org]

  • by manu0601 (2221348) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 @10:02PM (#43799613)

    If I understand correctly, they use vitamin C as a catalyst on iron to create an intense oxydative stress. If that is the way used to destroy a pathogen, I believe it would also destroy patient's cells if used in vivo.

  • by jw3 (99683) on Thursday May 23, 2013 @01:48AM (#43800529) Homepage

    Mtb is an intracellular pathogen. It invades our cells, the very same cells that are supposed to kill bacteria (the macrophages). This is why treatment of TB takes six months. Vitamin C, at a dosage lethal for Mtb as described in the article, cannot be used to kill the bacteria in our cells. The importance of the article is that it identifies a potentially intereseting difference between Mtb and other bacteria.

    As for vitamin C, this is not some kind of a miraculous drug; it is just a co-enzyme required for a few particular reactions in our metabolic pathways. We, humans, are mutants, we lack the ability to synthetise vitamin C -- along with our cousins, the monkeys, although most animals do synthetise it on their own. Lack of vitamin C impedes the metabolism. However, only little of the co-enzyme is needed, and once vitamin C is no longer a limiting factor, it has barely an effect.

    Think about that in terms of a network. If your wireless router is extremely slow, buying a new one will increase the speed of your connection. But what good is a super fast wifi router, if the outgoing connection runs at 10Mbit?

    Vitamin C is also an antioxidant, and this is why some people (quite incorrectly) think that taking large doses of vitamin C are beneficial. However, there are two forms of this compound, L-ascorbate (vitamin C) and D-ascorbate; both are antioxidative, but only one is a co-enzyme. D-ascorbate, however, shows no beneficial effects.

    Big pharma has not much interest in preventing the use of vitamin C in Mtb treatment. Mtb drugs are cheap, generic, and effective; the main reason why Mtb is a problem for much of the world is lack of fast and cheap diagnostic tools. You see, 2 billions (2e9, one third of worlds population) are infected with Mtb, and of these, only 10% will develop tuberculosis during their lifetime. However, we don't know which, why, and when. Also, when a person falls ill, it is not a quick process like a flu; rather than that, a person starts feeling unwell, caughing and becomes infectious over weeks before she finally decides to see a doctor. Here is a review article I wrote on TB and biomarkers: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23181737 [nih.gov] (full text behind a paywall, unfortunately).

    Pauling believed that taking large doses of vitamines will prevent cancer and took large amounts of vitamin C throughout his life. In 1994, he died of prostate cancer.

  • What I really want to know is if taking vitamin C adversely affects BCG treatment for bladder cancer. http://www.webmd.com/cancer/bladder-cancer/bacillus-calmette-guerin-bcg-for-bladder-cancer [webmd.com]

  • ...cure polio?

Save energy: Drive a smaller shell.

Working...