Researchers dig in the dirt for new TB treatment

Paul Basilio, MDLinx | March 03, 2017

An international collaboration of researchers has announced a new treatment for tuberculosis that uses compounds derived from bacteria found in the soil.

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A new compound may lead to treatments for drug-resistant TB.

The research partnership—including institutions from Australia, Canada, and the US—investigated soil bacteria compounds that effectively prevented other bacteria from growing nearby. These compounds were later recreated using synthetic chemistry and turned into more potent chemical analogs.

Testing in a containment laboratory showed the analogs were effective against Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causal pathogen for tuberculosis.

The analogs target MraY, an enzyme in M tuberculosis that catalyzes a crucial step in the construction of the cell wall around the bacterium. Attacking this enzyme provided an essential pathway for the antibacterial compounds to destroy TB strains.

M tuberculosis is becoming increasingly resistant to current therapies. In 2015, there were an estimated 10.4 million new cases of TB and 1.4 million deaths from the disease, and an estimated 480,000 cases were unresponsive to the two major drugs used to treat TB. That same year, an estimated 250,000 deaths from TB were due to drug-resistant infections, which indicates an urgent need to develop new and effective TB drugs.

The collaboration was led by the University of Sydney, and included the University of Warwick, Monash University, Colorado State University, Simon Fraser University, and the University of Queensland.

“This study highlights the international nature of our research, and how such a collaboration can bring new innovation in drug discovery and biomedicine,” said David Roper, PhD, from the University of Warwick’s School of Life Sciences in Coventry, England.

The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.

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