WASHINGTON -- Tuberculosis patients may have a quicker way to recover.

A new study on mice and tissue cultures suggested that giving vitamin C with tuberculosis drugs could reduce the unusually long time it took these drugs to eradicate this pathogen.

The study was published Wednesday in the US journal of Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

In the study, investigators treated Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb)-infected mice with anti-tuberculosis drugs and vitamin C together and separately.

Vitamin C had no activity by itself, but in two independent experiments, the combination of vitamin C with the first-line TB drugs, isoniazid and rifampicin, reduced the organ burdens faster than the two drugs without vitamin C, it showed.

Experiments in infected tissue cultures demonstrated similar results, shortening the time to sterilization of the tissue culture by seven days.

"Our study shows that the addition of vitamin C to TB drug treatment potentiates the killing of Mtb and could shorten TB chemotherapy," said principal investigator William R. Jacobs at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Drug-susceptible tuberculosis usually takes six months for treatment. Such long-term treatment is needed because a subpopulation of Mtb cells can form dormant cells that are virtually impervious to antimicrobials.

It risks resulting in "mismanagement, potentially leading to the emergence and spread of drug-resistant TB," said Jacobs.

"In our new paper, we postulate that vitamin C is stimulating respiration of the Mtb cells in mice, thus enabling the action of isoniazid and rifampicin."

Tuberculosis is a major worldwide public health problem, infecting the lungs and other organ systems. In 2016, the disease sickened more than 10 million people worldwide, and killed 1.7 million. (Xinhua)