[Prospects for development of new antituberculous drugs]

Haruaki Tomioka
Kekkaku: [Tuberculosis] 2002, 77 (8): 573-84
Tuberculosis (TB) is a growing international health concern, since it is the leading infectious cause of death in the world today. Moreover, the resurgence of TB in industrialized countries and the worldwide increase in the prevalence of Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) infections in immunocompromised hosts have prompted the quest for new antimycobacterial drugs. In particular, the appearance of multidrug-resistant (MDR) strains of M. tuberculosis, which exhibit in vitro resistance to at least two major antituberculous drug (usually INH and RFP) and cause intractable TB, has greatly contributed to the increased incidence of TB. Because of the global health problems of TB, the increasing rate of MDR-TB and the high rate of a co-infection with HIV, the development of potent new antituberculous drugs without cross-resistance with known antimycobacterial agents is urgently needed. In this article, I reviewed the following areas. First, I briefly reviewed some new findings (mainly reported after 2000) on the pharmacological status of rifamycin derivatives (rifabutin, rifapentine, and rifalazil), fluoroquinolones (ciprofloxacin, ofloxacin, sparfloxacin, levofloxacin, gatifloxacin, sitafloxacin, moxifloxacin, and others), and new macrolides (clarithromycin, azithromycin, and roxithromycin). Second, I described other types of agents which are being developed as antimycobacterial drugs. Some of the agents discussed are already under preliminary clinical investigation, and others appear to be promising candidates for future development. In this review, the status of the development of new antimycobacterial, especially antituberculous agents including oxazolidinone (PNU-100480), 5'-nitroimidazole (CGI 17341), 2-pyridone (ABT-255), new riminophenazines, nitroimidazopyran (PA-824), new ketolides (ABT-773, telithromycin) and defensins (human neutrophil peptide-I), was examined. Third, the development of new antitubercular drugs was discussed according to the potential pharmacological target. New critical information on the whole genome of M. tuberculosis recently elucidated and increasing knowledge on various mycobacterial virulence genes will promote the progression in the identification of genes that code for new drug targets. Using such findings on mycobacterial genomes, drug development using quantitative structure-activity relationship may be possible in the near future. In this review, I described the screening of drugs that have an inhibitory activity against dTDP-rhamnose synthesis of M. tuberculosis, as a new drug target of the organism. In addition, I discussed the usefulness of antisense oligo DNAs specific to mycobacterial genes encoding certain metabolic enzymes or virulence factors that play roles in the bacterial escape from antimicrobial mechanisms of host macrophages. Fourth, I reviewed the drug vehicles which enable efficacious drug delivery to their target in vivo. The usefulness of poly (DL-lactide-co-glycolide) microsphere technology, which enables the encapsulated drugs to deliver the requested doses of them for prolonged time periods by a single shot without causing any toxicity and, moreover, enables the highly targeted delivery of the drugs to host macrophages, was discussed. Fifth, I described adjunctive immunotherapy for the management of patients with mycobacterial infections by giving certain immunomodulators in combination with antimycobacterial drugs. Adjuvant clinical trials using IL-2 or GM-CSF have been found to be efficacious to some extent in improving patients with tuberculosis or disseminated MAC infections. However, it seems that these immunopotentiating cytokines as well as IFN-gamma and IL-12 are not so promising for the therapeutic agents of mycobacterial infections because of the possible induction of immunosuppressive cytokines during adjuvant therapy and, in some cases, severe side-effect. Thus, the development of new classes of immuno-modulators other than cytokines, particularly those with no severe side-effect, is needed. This review dealt with ATP and its analogues which potentiate macrophage antimycobacterial activity via a purinergic P2X7 receptor. Finally, I described the roles of type II alveolar epithelial cells in the establishment of mycobacterial infections in the host lungs and the profiles of drug susceptibilities of M. tuberculosis and MAC organisms replicating within the type II pneumocytes. These findings are useful to precisely assess or predict the in vivo therapeutic activity of a given antimycobacterial drug from its in vitro activity. In this article, I have thoroughly reviewed the status of the development of new antimycobacterial drugs. There are a number of difficulties in the drug-design for the development of new drug formulations with increased potential for antimycobacterial effects, excellent pharmacokinetics, and tolerability. It should be emphasized that the most urgent goal of chemotherapy of tuberculosis and MAC infections, especially that associated with HIV infection, is to develop highly active, low-cost drugs which can be used not only in industrialized countries but also in developing countries, since the incidences of AIDS-associated intractable tuberculosis is rapidly increasing in the latter.

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