Amino acid in peanuts may help treat tuberculosis

March 18, 2003 in Nutrition Topics in the News

Amino acid in peanuts may help treat tuberculosis

The amino acid arginine, found abundantly in peanuts, might be useful for fighting tuberculosis (TB), according to Swedish researchers.

Scientists from Linkoeping University studied 120 patients with TB in Ethiopia. Each was given either a one-gram arginine supplement daily or a placebo pill for four weeks, in addition to the normal TB treatment.

Arginine is essential for the body's production of nitric oxide, a key weapon for defending against Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which causes TB. The theory behind the study was that malnutrition among TB patients might cause a deficiency of the nutrient. None of the patients in the trial were co-infected with HIV.

The researchers report that in this group of HIV-negative TB patients, arginine supplementation showed a "significant and favourable effect on weight gain...and reduction of symptoms like cough."

Tuberculosis, which is spread by coughing and sneezing, primarily attacks the lungs and can prove fatal. Despite the availability of effective treatment, 1.5 million people worldwide still die from TB each year.

Peanuts, which are cheap and readily available worldwide, contain 1 gram of arginine per 30 grams. The amino acid is also found in a range of other nuts.

Last month, a team of international researchers said arginine could also be a potential new treatment for malaria. In a study of 75 children in Africa, they discovered that those with the lowest levels of arginine suffered the most severe effects of malaria. They said that combining arginine with anti-malaria drugs could be a more effective way of combating the mosquito-borne disease that, worldwide, kills one person every 30 seconds.

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