Nicotine May Fight TB Bug: Study
ORLANDO (Reuters Health) - Finally, some good news about nicotine: researchers say the addictive compound in tobacco may be a potent killer of the bacteria that cause tuberculosis (TB), and other dangerous bacteria as well.
``We found that this compound not only inhibits Mycobacterium tuberculosis growth, it kills it completely,'' explained lead researcher Dr. Saleh Naser of the University of Central Florida in Orlando. He presented the findings here Monday at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.
According to Naser, previous studies have indicated that nicotine has some effectiveness in killing cancer cells. In his lab, Naser pitted the chemical against a number of dangerous bacteria, including Mycobacterium tuberculosis--the microbe that causes TB.
He found that even relatively small concentrations of nicotine--smaller than those found in the normal smoker's saliva--wiped out M. tuberculosis under laboratory conditions. In fact, Naser told Reuters Health, ``the amount of nicotine that we need to kill M. tuberculosis is less than the amount of nicotine in one cigarette.''
So does this mean we should all start smoking for our respiratory health? ``Not at all,'' the Florida researcher warned. ''The problem with tobacco is that you can't just chew tobacco or smoke cigarettes, because of the other stuff in there''--carcinogens known to trigger cancer.
It is not yet clear just how nicotine battles bacteria so successfully, but Naser plans further study in tissue culture and then animals to help determine the answer to that question. ``This is still preliminary data and we have a long way to go,'' he said.
Nevertheless, he believes nicotine may be effective against other bacteria, as well. ``TB is a very tough bacterium. If you kill that one,'' Naser said, ``you are on the right track.''