Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Mar 13;22(6):2938. doi: 10.3390/ijms22062938.
For over 50 years, patients with drug-sensitive and drug-resistant tuberculosis have undergone long, arduous, and complex treatment processes with several antimicrobials. With the prevalence of drug-resistant strains on the rise and new therapies for tuberculosis urgently required, we assessed whether manipulating iron levels in macrophages infected with mycobacteria offered some insight into improving current antimicrobials that are used to treat drug-resistant tuberculosis. We investigated if the iron chelator, desferrioxamine, can support the function of human macrophages treated with an array of second-line antimicrobials, including moxifloxacin, bedaquiline, amikacin, clofazimine, linezolid and cycloserine. Primary human monocyte-derived macrophages were infected with Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG), which is pyrazinamide-resistant, and concomitantly treated for 5 days with desferrioxamine in combination with each one of the second-line tuberculosis antimicrobials. Our data indicate that desferrioxamine used as an adjunctive treatment to bedaquiline significantly reduced the bacterial load in human macrophages infected with BCG. Our findings also reveal a link between enhanced bactericidal activity and increases in specific cytokines, as the addition of desferrioxamine increased levels of IFN-γ, IL-6, and IL-1β in BCG-infected human monocyte-derived macrophages (hMDMs) treated with bedaquiline. These results provide insight, and an in vitro proof-of-concept, that iron chelators may prove an effective adjunctive therapy in combination with current tuberculosis antimicrobials.