Colorado State University Gets Funding to Validate Tuberculosis Treatment Test

Colorado State University researchers have received federal funds to measure molecules in urine and serum to show – within days rather than months – if tuberculosis treatments are working on patients.

Current tuberculosis treatment and clinical trial regimens include three or four different antibiotics taken for six months. Doctors don’t have a way of knowing if it is working until about two months into treatment, but CSU’s test shows drug effectiveness after just two weeks.

By looking for drastic drops in more than 50 small molecules present in the urine at the time of tuberculosis diagnosis, the current test may save precious time spent treating a tuberculosis patient with antibacterial combinations that aren’t effective against the strain of TB they’ve contracted.

“We have identified a series of metabolites in the urine of tuberculosis patients that disappear or decrease in abundance when these individuals properly respond to anti-tuberculosis treatment,” said John Belisle, principal investigator for the grant. “At this time, the earliest measure available to doctors to assess whether or not a drug is working during a clinical trial is through tests two months into a treatment.”

Belisle and two other tuberculosis researchers from Colorado State — Dr. Mary Ann DeGroote and Dr. Sebabrata Mahapatra — received nearly $500,000 from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to continue studying the urine test so it can be used in clinical trials for new tuberculosis treatments and to provide a testing mechanism that can be used predict whether or not patients will redevelop tuberculosis after the treatment is completed.

Tuberculosis has been treated with multiple antibiotics for more than 50 years because tuberculosis in patients treated with only one drug often rapidly becomes resistant to the treatment.

Colorado State University is known internationally for its tuberculosis research program, devoted to developing and testing drugs , tests for and preventative treatments against the disease, including conducting drug testing for the National Institutes of Health.

In 1993, the World Health Organization declared TB a global health emergency, and continues to recognize it as such today. About 9 million people are infected with tuberculosis each year and 2 million die. Of the 9 million new cases each year, close to half a million are resistant to multiple drugs that once effectively treated the disease. A drug that treats tuberculosis in a new way –better addressing resistance — has not been developed in decades, yet the bacterium that causes tuberculosis continues to mutate to become resistant to current drugs.

The tuberculosis research program is centered in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology, part of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.