Long-term deficiency of specific nutrients essential for immune system function leads to impaired immunity and higher susceptibility to bacterial, viral and other infections.
Scope of Tuberculosis (TB)
Tuberculosis (TB) remains one of the world’s leading infectious causes of death among adults. The global incidence of tuberculosis, 8-12 million new cases of active tuberculosis a year, resulting in deaths of over two million people a year, has been increasing by 1% annually since 1980. Developing countries have 90% of the world’s TB cases, with incidence concentrated mainly in Africa. More than 500, 000 TB patients die annually in Africa where malnutrition is common. This disease is commonly associated with poverty and is prevalent in undernourished individuals. This problem is further exacerbated by the pervasive use of ARV drugs that can damage the immune system of AIDS patients who are taking them. In fact, a large number of AIDS patients die from TB. Although conventional treatment relies on the use of antibiotics, the bacteria causing TB (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) have become increasingly resistant to current drugs and about 50% of the patients die despite this treatment.
Disease progression and risk
Tuberculosis develops when after the infection with TB bacilli, the bacteria overcome the immune system defenses and begin to multiply. In about 1% to 5% of cases this occurs soon after infection. However, in the majority of cases, the disaese can develop after a longer period, sometimes even a few years. Such a latent infection has no obvious symptoms. The risk of bacteria activation increases with impaired function of the immune system such as in malnutrition and AIDS.
Patients with increased risk of contracting tuberculosis are those with diabetes, those on prolonged therapy with corticosteroids and immunosuppressing drugs, cancer patients (especially suffering from leukemia, and Hodgkin’s disease), patients who have had intestinal bypass , and those suffering from chronic malabsorption syndromes, vitamin D deficiency, and low body weight.
Treatment for TB is based on the use of antibiotics to kill the bacteria. The most commonly used antibiotics are rifampicin and isoniazid. However, TB requires much longer treatment periods than most other bacterial infections and it takes about 6 to 12 months to eliminate mycobacteria from the body. There is an increasing concern with the development of antibiotic resistance to TB. It has been estimated that about 20% of TB cases that developed between 2000 and 2004 were resistant to standard treatments. Treatment of such TB cases often requires up to two years of daily use of multiple TB drugs with serious adverse effects which results in death in 40-60% of patients treated.
Hepatotoxicity is the most common adverse effect of standard TB treatment. This can be indicated by an increase in the level of enzymes (transaminases) which are the marker of liver cell damage (which in extreme cases may lead to interruption of TB treatment). This treatment can also lead to acute liver failure and even death. Hepatotoxicity due to isoniazid is most common, especially when combined with rifampicin; however, pyrazinamide is the most hepatotoxic among essential anti-TB drugs.
The increasing worldwide incidence of tuberculosis, especially multi drug resistant TB, necessitates a search for new more effective and less toxic treatment alternatives.
Micronutrients and Tuberculosis
Malnutrition and a clinical deficiency of specific nutrients essential for immune system function leads to immune deficiency and higher susceptibility to bacterial, viral and other infections. Immune enhancing nutrients such as vitamin C (ascorbate) and other antioxidants have shown beneficial effects in various types of infections, including TB. Antioxidants used in conjunction with standard TB regimens, has been shown to accelerate healing from tuberculosis. Studies have shown that vitamin C can prevent the growth of cultures of tuberculosis bacterium.
Nutrients such as vitamin C and lysine can help improve immune system function, but also contribute to halting the spread of infectious agents. According to Dr Rath’s findings these nutrients are critical for inhibiting the activity of plasmin and matrix metalloproteinases (MMP-2 and MMP-9), which are used by bacteria and other infectious agents to spread in the body. They are also essential for maintaining optimum synthesis and structure of the connective tissue, the natural barrier for the spread of infections. Tuberculosis patients are found to have elevated MMP-9 levels, which is correlated with severity of illness in patients with active tuberculosis. MMP-9 is secreted by both the bacillus and host response to infection with mycobacterium tuberculosis. Our previous studies have demonstrated that adequate levels of ascorbic acid, proline and lysine can prevent MMP-9 secretion and degradation of collagen matrix in various systems.
Pulmonary TB is accompanied by inflammation and related to oxidative stress, which leads to development of lung fibrosis and its dysfunction. TB patients, even after apparently successful drug treatment, still demonstrate high levels of circulating lipid peroxides and low concentrations of plasma vitamin E. Administration of nutrients such as ascorbic acid and vitamin E have been shown to accelerate tuberculosis healing, based on decay cavity closure and negative sputum. Furthermore, a clinical trail cohort study of 26,975 Finnish men during a median follow-up of 6 to 7 years found a high inverse association between vitamin C intake and incidence of tuberculosis. Subjects with intake of >90mg of vitamin C and increased consumption of fruits, vegetable and berries had significantly lower risk of tuberculosis.
Nutrient Synergy In TB: Clinical approach
To find a natural way to control TB and improve conventional treatment of this disease, we conducted a joint clinical study in collaboration with physicians in Europe in 120 hospitalized patients with active TB. In this study all patients (test group) received the conventional TB treatment supplemented with a specific combination of vitamins and other nutrients for 2 months. A control group (100 patients) recently treated at the hospital was selected by matching to the Test patients by stage of disease, gender and several other criteria.
The group of TB patients, who took micronutrients in addition to conventional treatment, experienced significant health improvements. Compared to patients on drugs alone, patients on drugs plus micronutrients had significant healing of the lung, reduced drug side effects (allergies or toxic allergic reactions), complete disappearance of TB-associated inflammation and fever, and significant reduction of coughing and liver enlargement. The patients on the vitamin program experienced full recovery, which was 2-3 weeks faster.
For further information on how vitamins can help fight TB, please click here.