New research suggests that metformin, a drug prescribed to treat type 2 diabetes, could be used to treat tuberculosis (TB) infection.
A warning has been previous been reported of a looming co-epidemic between diabetes and tuberculosis, which are leading causes of death and disability around the world.
A study published on November 20 in the journal Science Translational Medicine, revealed that metformin was found to “inhibit intracellular growth of TB bacteria, restrict disease immunopathology and enhance the efficacy of anti-TB drugs”.
Metformin studies
Scientists at the Singapore Immunology Network Agency for Science, Technology and Research, Singapore, studied how 500mg per kg of metformin affected mice that had both acute and chronic drug-sensitive TB.
They found that metformin had a superior ability to reduce chronic inflammation from TB, with 45 of 48 gene pathways affected by TB inflammation becoming normal after metformin treatment.
Human data
Researchers have only conducted metformin studies in cell lines and mice, currently, but retrospective data of human analysis was used to compare 106 people with diabetes who were on metformin, and 164 patients on other anti-TB drugs.
The patients with diabetes who were on metformin and did not have TB were found to be less likely to become infected with TB, with this effect due to the drug’s ability to enhance the TB-specific T cell immune responsive.
“These data suggest that metformin could be used as an adjuvant therapy to treat TB infection,” a note said from the journal Editor.

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