New research conducted by the University College London (UCL) and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in the UK has revealed that gastric acid suppressant, lansoprazole, can be used to target mycobacterium tuberculosis (TB).

Lansoprazole is a widely used therapy that can help treat patients affected by conditions such as heartburn, gastritis and ulcers.

According to the new study, the drug can be used to potentially work against the bacteria that cause TB.

During the research, the scientists have found that the patients who used lansoprazole, as opposed to similar drugs such as omeprazole or pantoprazole, were a third less likely to be affected with TB.

UCL Institute for Global Health first author Dr Tom Yates said: “It would be a major breakthrough to find a new drug with useful activity against mycobacterium tuberculosis and a favourable side effect profile – particularly a drug like lansoprazole, which costs pennies.

“Laboratory, animal and now epidemiological data are all consistent with lansoprazole acting against the bacteria that cause TB. While it is too early to say whether lansoprazole can be used to treat TB, we think there is a strong case for further study.”

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“This study highlights how we can investigate possible new uses for medicines using the wealth of information recorded as part of routine healthcare in the UK.”

The researchers evaluated data that had been routinely collected by general practices and hospitals in the UK and compared the incidence of TB in people taking lansoprazole with that in people taking omeprazole or pantoprazole.

The current research is built upon a laboratory study that found lansoprazole was effective at killing mycobacterium TB, while other drugs in the same class had no effect on the disease.

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine Pharmacoepidemiology and Electronic Health Records Group associate professor Dr Ian Douglas said: “This study highlights how we can investigate possible new uses for medicines using the wealth of information recorded as part of routine healthcare in the UK.

“TB is still a major health problem in many parts of the world, and the results of this study raise the possibility that lansoprazole, a well-established treatment for stomach complaints may also be useful for treating tuberculosis.”

The research has been funded by Wellcome, the Medical Research Council, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and the National Institute of Health Research.