A new treatment for tuberculosis under development at the University of Tampere

The University of Tampere in Finland is launching a study to develop a new therapeutic concept for tuberculosis. This treatment concept is intended to target biofilms, which consist of organised mycobacterial communities.

The research groups led by Docent Mataleena Parikka and Professor Seppo Parkkila have received EUR 1,055,000 of funding from the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation.

Tuberculosis is the most lethal infectious disease in the world, causing 1.7 million deaths and more than 10 million new infections every year. Tuberculosis cases are also increasing in Finland.

There is currently no effective treatment for tuberculosis, even though some mycobacteria are susceptible to antibiotics. Some of the mycobacteria are naturally tolerant to antibiotic treatment, which complicates the cure and results in prolonged treatment times, which last at least several months.

“According to our estimations, one of the reasons for the natural drug tolerance of mycobacteria is the formation of organised bacterial communities called biofilms, which provide protection against both medication and the host’s immune response,” Parikka says.

The role of biofilm formation in tuberculosis pathogenesis and its relevance to natural drug tolerance is not yet known.

“Our research aims to develop a new tuberculosis treatment concept that targets the naturally drug‑tolerant biofilms,” Parikka adds.

The research model utilises adult zebrafish, as their mycobacterial infection closely resembles human tuberculosis. The first phase of the study investigates the function of mycobacterial biofilms during infection.

“The next step in the study will be to show that by interfering with the formation of mycobacterial biofilms, mycobacteria can be sensitised to both drugs and immune responses. The new treatment concept will help to improve the effectiveness of tuberculosis drugs and shorten treatment times,” Parikka explains.

Docent Mataleena Parikka, +358 50 437 7400, mataleena.parikka@uta.fi
Professor Seppo Parkkila, +358 40 190 1825, seppo.parkkila@uta.fi