Toothpaste ingredient may bust up cystic fibrosis biofilms

By Chris Waters and Sarina Gleason

A common antibacterial substance in toothpaste may combat life-threatening diseases such as cystic fibrosis when combined with an with an FDA-approved drug, researchers report.

Researchers have found that when triclosan, a substance that reduces or prevents bacteria from growing, combines with an antibiotic called tobramycin, it kills the cells that protect the CF bacteria, known as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, by up to 99.9 percent.

CF is a common genetic disease with one in every 2,500 to 3,500 people diagnosed with it at an early age. It results in a thick mucus in the lungs, which becomes a magnet for bacteria.

These bacteria are notoriously difficult to kill because a slimy barrier known as a biofilm, which allows the disease to thrive even when treated with antibiotics, protects them.

“The problem that we’re really tackling is finding ways to kill these biofilms,” says Chris Waters, lead author of the study and a microbiology professor at Michigan State University.

According to Waters, there are many common biofilm-related infections that people get, including ear infections and swollen, painful gums caused by gingivitis. But more serious, potentially fatal diseases join the ranks of CF including endocarditis, or inflammation of the heart, as well as infections from artificial hip and pacemaker implants.

Waters and his coauthors grew 6,000 biofilms in petri dishes, added in tobramycin along with many different compounds, to see what worked better at killing the bacteria. Twenty-five potential compounds were effective, but one stood out.

“It’s well known that triclosan, when used by itself, isn’t effective at killing Pseudomonas aeruginosa,” says coauthor Alessandra Hunt, a postdoctoral associate of microbiology and molecular genetics. “But when I saw it listed as a possible compound to use with tobramycin, I was intrigued. We found triclosan was the one that worked every time.”

Triclosan has been used for more than 40 years in soaps, makeup, and other commercial products because of its antibacterial properties. Recently, the FDA ruled to limit its use in soaps and hand sanitizers due to insufficient data on its increased effectiveness and concern about overuse. Clear evidence has shown, though, that its use in toothpaste is safe and highly effective in fighting gingivitis, and it is still approved for use.

“Limiting its use is the right thing to do,” says coauthor Michael Maiden, a graduate student in medicine. “The key is to avoid creating resistance to a substance so when it’s found in numerous products, the chances of that happening increase.”

Tobramycin is currently the most widely used treatment for CF, but it typically doesn’t clear the lungs of infection, Waters says. Patients typically inhale the drug, yet still find themselves chronically infected their whole lives, eventually needing a lung transplant.

“Most transplants aren’t a viable option though for these patients and those who do have a transplant see a 50 percent failure rate within five years,” he says. “The other issue is that tobramycin can be toxic itself.” Known side effects from the drug include kidney toxicity and hearing loss.

“Our triclosan finding gives doctors another potential option and allows them to use significantly less of the tobramycin in treatment, potentially reducing its use by 100 times,” Hunt says.

Within the next year, Waters and his colleagues will begin testing the effectiveness of the combination therapy on mice with hopes of it heading to a human trial soon after since both drugs are already FDA approved.

Just brushing your teeth with toothpaste that has triclosan won’t help to treat lung infections though, Maiden says.

“We’re working to get this potential therapy approved so we can provide a new treatment option for CF patients, as well as treat other biofilm infections that are now untreatable. We think this can save lives,” he says.

The research appears in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

The National Institutes of Health, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and Hunt for a Cure in Grand Rapids, Michigan funded the research.

Source: Michigan State University

Potential Therapy for Infections in CF Gets Patent

AB569Arch Biopartners’ treatment candidate for bacterial infections in patients with cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other respiratory conditions, has received a U.S. patent.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued patent 9,925,206 to the University of Cincinnati, which granted Arch Biopartners an exclusive commercial license on all patents related to AB569. The inventor is Daniel Hassett, PhD, a principal scientist at Arch and professor at the University of Cincinnati College Of Medicine.

“This patent issuance, which protects the composition of AB569, gives Arch a stronger commercial position to pursue treating not just CF patients, but also the millions of other patients that have chronic antibiotic resistant lung infections including those with COPD,” Richard Muruve, CEO of Arch, said in a press release. “It also opens the door for Arch to develop treatments for many other indications where antibiotic resistance is a problem, such as urinary tract infections and wound care.”

Bacterial infections in the lungs are a serious problem in patients with CF, COPD, or ventilator-associated pneumonia. Cystic fibrosis patients are susceptible to bacterial respiratory infections as a result of abnormal mucus production in the lungs and airways.

In particular, the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa (P. aeruginosa) affects most adult CF patients and 40 percent of CF children ages 6 to 10. The mucoid form of P. aeruginosa is highly resistant to conventional antibiotics and immune-mediated killing. It causes a rapid decline in lung function and a poor overall clinical prognosis.

Antibiotic use in the treatment of CF and COPD patients with chronic bacterial respiratory infections is increasing, which correlates with a higher prevalence of antibiotic-resistant strains.

AB569 is a non-antibiotic therapy made of sodium nitrite and ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA), two compounds approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for human use. The treatment has a different mechanism of action from antibiotics that may increase effectiveness, Arch believes.

“AB569 has two active ingredients that produce a dramatic and synergistic effect at killing many antibiotic resistant bacteria including Pseudomonas aeruginosa (P. aeruginosa), which commonly causes severe chronic infections in the lungs of cystic fibrosis (CF) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients,” Hassett said. “AB569 has the potential to make a significant medical impact on treating infection where traditional antibiotics fail.”

In preclinical experiments, the therapy showed significant ability to kill several types of Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria.

The safety and pharmacokinetics of a single administration of nebulized AB569 are now being evaluated in a Phase 1 clinical trial with up to 25 healthy volunteers at the Cincinnati Veterans Affairs Medical Center (CVAMC). Pharmacokinetics refers to how a drug is absorbed, distributed, metabolized, and expelled by the body. Enrollment of volunteers started in February.

If the Phase 1 study provides positive results, the company plans to start a Phase 2 trial to test the effectiveness of AB569 in the treatment of chronic lung infections caused by P. aeruginosa and other bacterial pathogens in CF and/or COPD patients.

AB569 previously received orphan drug status from the FDA for the treatment of CF patients infected with P. aeruginosa, and orphan medicinal product designation from the European Medicines Agency.

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