Tuberculosis researchers discover potential new target for treatments

November 21, 2011

( -- Colorado State University researchers have discovered an enzyme that is critical to the survival and replication of the bacterial pathogen that causes tuberculosis. The enzyme may become a key target for new drugs that could halt the manifestation of tuberculosis and potentially cut the current treatment strategy of multiple antibiotics given daily for at least six months.

The enzyme is an especially important discovery because it is present in both replicating and non-replicating strains of the bacteria, including . That’s key because non-replicating bacteria are much more difficult to kill with antibiotics, which is one reason treatments for tuberculosis are so long-lasting.

“Another interesting observation that arose from our work is that this enzyme – known as FBA-tb – is on the surface of the bacterium. Because it is on the surface, it has the ability to interact with a human substance called plasminogen, which plays a key role in our immune response,” said Mary Jackson, an associate professor in CSU’s Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology. Jackson works in the Mycobacteria Research Laboratories. “This finding suggests that the bacteria that cause tuberculosis may use this enzyme to manipulate our immune system and spread tuberculosis throughout our body. We’re looking into that theory now.”

Jackson’s laboratory also is already pursuing research to find ways to block this enzyme from helping the bacteria that causes tuberculosis replicate. That research is being funded by two National Institutes of Health grants.

The research discovery is published in today’s issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Tuberculosis is one of the world’s deadliest diseases, with one-third of the entire global population being infected. In 2010, about 1.4 million people died of tuberculosis or illnesses related to the disease, and 9 million people became ill with tuberculosis, according to the Centers for Disease Control. While is more common in other countries, the CDC says more than 11,000 new cases were reported in the United States in 2010.

Explore further: Why is long-term therapy required to cure tuberculosis?

Related Stories

Experts say Toronto unprepared for TB

February 24, 2008

Health experts warn there could be an outbreak of tuberculosis in Toronto, which reportedly lacks a centralized system of TB clinics.

New chemical can kill latent tuberculosis bacteria

March 14, 2008

Success in the laboratory suggests that a new compound can point the way to preventing active tuberculosis in people infected with the latent form of the bacterium, says a team led by researchers at Weill Cornell Medical ...

New avenues for overcoming tuberculosis drug resistance

April 27, 2010

Tuberculosis (TB) continues to be a global health problem, in part due to the exceptional drug resistance displayed by the TB-causing agent, Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Beyond even acquired drug resistance, these bacteria ...

Recommended for you

The universe's most miraculous molecule

October 9, 2015

It's the second most abundant substance in the universe. It dissolves more materials than any other solvent. It stores incredible amounts of energy. Life as we know it would not be possible without it. And although it covers ...

New method facilitates research on fuel cell catalysts

October 8, 2015

While the cleaning of car exhausts is among the best known applications of catalytic processes, it is only the tip of the iceberg. Practically the entire chemical industry relies on catalytic reactions. Therefore, catalyst ...

Trio wins Nobel Prize for mapping how cells fix DNA damage

October 7, 2015

Tomas Lindahl was eating his breakfast in England on Wednesday when the call came—ostensibly, from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. It occurred to him that this might be a hoax, but then the caller started speaking ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.