Popular kitchen spice turmeric may turn out to be a new weapon against tuberculosis, with Indian scientists discovering a set of wonder properties of the spice.

Curcumin, the basic ingredient of turmeric, has been found to enhance the efficacy of standard TB treatment and reduce the treatment time by almost 50%. 

Moreover, the chances of reinfection — a common phenomenon for scores of TB patients — are negligible when curcumin nanoparticles are used as an adjunct therapy along with the standard TB treatment.

Even though called the short course, the standard DOTS (directly observed treatment short course) regimen involves 6-9 months of treatment for regular TB and 12-24 months or more for drug-resistant TB. The prolonged treatment time substantially increases the risk of the development of drug-resistant variants of Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

“In our laboratory study on mice, there is 50% reduction in treatment time when curcumin nanoparticles were given. Also, since it reduces the hepatotoxicity, the possibility of reinfection is minimal,” team leader Gobardhan Das from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi told DH.

However, the efficacy of nano-curcumin has to be demonstrated through clinical trial before it can be used in clinical treatment.

Popularly known as Indian yellow gold, the ubiquitous kitchen spice exhibits therapeutic efficacy against many chronic inflammatory and infectious diseases. Even with its potential as a drug, the translational potential of curcumin is limited by its low systemic bioavailability, due to its poor intestinal absorption, rapid metabolism and rapid systemic elimination.

To overcome the problem, Das and his colleagues from International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Delhi, University of Calcutta, KIIT University in Bhubaneswar and Vanderbilt University, USA used nano-particles of curcumin that retains all its wonder properties and are absorbed better by the body.

“From half an hour, the bio-availability of medicines increased to 18 hours with curcumin. Most of the medicines worked with 12 hours of bioavailability of the drug inside the body. Our data gives the basis for continuing clinical trial for curcumin,” said Das.

“We developed a simple one-step process to generate curcumin nanoparticles of about 200 nm in size, which yielded a 5-fold enhanced bioavailability in mice over regular curcumin,” he said. The research paper has been accepted for publication in the journal Frontiers.

With an estimated 28 million TB patients, the bacterial infection is one of the major public health worries in India. Nearly 40% of all drug-resistant tuberculosis cases occur in Russia, India, the Philippines, and South Africa — accounting for more than 230,000 cases of drug-resistant disease in 2015.

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