The Professor of Microbiology at St Mary’s Hospital in the years leading up to World War 2 was Sir Almroth Wright. He thought that the quest for antimicrobial drugs was doomed and instead promoted the search for methods to boost the natural immunity of the body. Unfortunately he worked in the same department as Alexander Fleming, so after the discovery of penicillin the students nicknamed him Sir Almost Right! But was he only almost right? Time would seem to vindicate his approach, at least with respect to tuberculosis (TB) according to a recent article in Nature Reviews. TB organisms are developing resistance, TB drugs may interact with anti-HIV treatment (Immune Reconstitution Inflammatory Syndrome), and prolonged maintenance of therapy is required. Many treatments to fight the disease by boosting the body’s immune response are now in trials. These include cell therapies, such as mesenchymal stem cell treatment, and repurposed drugs, such as vitamin D (that induces release of anti-microbial peptides) and the anti-cancer kinase inhibitor imatinib, and therapeutic vaccines designed specifically to augment immunity.
— Richard Lilford, CLAHRC WM Director
- Zumla A, Chakaya J, Hoelscher M, et al. Towards host-directed therapies for tuberculosis. Nat Rev Drug Discov. 2015; 14(8):511-2.