New class of drugs to treat hepatitis B, tuberculosis discovered

A team of researchers at the University of Alberta's Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry in Alberta, Canada, has discovered new classes of drugs that could some day to be used to treat hepatitis B and tuberculosis.

Rakesh Kumar, the leader of the study, and his colleagues have found that this new class of drugs does three things for hepatitis B - it isn't toxic to healthy cells, it is effective against the normal strain of the hepatitis B virus and it is effective against the drug-resistant stain of the virus, Virtual Medical Centre reports.

Four drugs are currently used to treat hepatitis B. Some of these drugs trigger drug-resistant viral strains a large percentage of the time. If treatment using these drugs ceases, it can lead to even more severe infection and ultra drug-resistant strains.

"We want to inhibit the virus without killing healthy cells and that's what this new class of drugs can do," Kumar, an associate professor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, said, according to Virtual Medical Centre. "And we want to inhibit the DNA of the virus with maximum impact in hopes of eradicating the hepatitis B virus altogether."

Kumar and his team have made a similar vaccine discovery with tuberculosis, which may effectively fight drug-resistant strains of TB.

There are approximately 400 million chronic cases of hepatitis B worldwide. The disease causes liver inflammation and can lead to liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. Close to 1.2 million people die worldwide each year from the virus.