Enzyme discovery may lead to better tests for tuberculosis

Jan 08, 2013

(Medical Xpress)—Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health have identified an enzyme that will trigger the rapid breakdown of several mycobacteria species, including the bacteria known to cause tuberculosis. This discovery could lead to better tests for the deadly disease.

The results of the study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), are published in the January edition of the .

Tuberculosis is one of the most deadly global bacterial infections, killing more than 2 million people worldwide annually. Doctors see 9 million new cases of the disease every year, mostly in Africa and Southeast Asian countries, although small outbreaks of the disease have been reported in urban areas of the United States. Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The usually attack the lungs and are spread through the air from one person to another.

"It's a huge public health burden," said Anil Ojha, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology at Pitt Public Health, and senior author of the study. "Clearly, controlling the infection is heavily dependent upon an effective diagnosis."

The current test for TB infections is highly accurate but time-consuming, taking up to several weeks.

"That may create a race against time for a patient who has acute ," said Dr. Ojha. "That's why our process is so important. It can obtain results that are both rapid and accurate."

The World Health Organization (WHO) currently recommends a diagnostic technique called nucleic acid-based amplification (NAA); however, this process faces difficulty in breaking open, or lysing bacteria, to access . Mycobacteria are shaped by a thick envelope of fats and sugars, and are resistant to most of the chemicals conventionally used to lyse bacteria.

Pitt Public Health researchers found that exposure to an esterase, an enzyme that targets fatty acids on the surface of the mycobacterial envelope, led to rapid lysis of the bacilli. Researchers also demonstrated that this quick lysis of Mycobacterium tuberculosis improved its detection at lower density.

"Discovery of enzyme-based mycobacteria lysis has the potential to increase the sensitivity of NAA," said Dr. Ojha.

Explore further: 'Global positioning' for molecules

More information: www.jbc.org/content/early/2012… 1/15/jbc.M112.419754

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Novel tuberculosis research technology published

Feb 15, 2012

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one-third of the world's population is currently infected with tuberculosis bacteria. The bacteria is incredibly resistant to treatment, and despite its prevalence, ...

Scientists discover bacteria that can cause bone infections

Oct 17, 2008

Scientists have discovered that a bone infection is caused by a newly described species of bacteria that is related to the tuberculosis pathogen. The discovery may help improve the diagnosis and treatment of similar infections, ...

Experts say Toronto unprepared for TB

Feb 24, 2008

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

Recommended for you

'Global positioning' for molecules

21 hours ago

In everyday life, the global positioning system (GPS) can be employed to reliably determine the momentary location of one en route to the desired destination. Scientists from the Institute of Physical and ...

Cells build 'cupboards' to store metals

Dec 17, 2014

Lawrence Livermore researchers in conjunction with collaborators at University of California (link is external), Los Angeles have found that some cells build intracellular compartments that allow the cell ...

User comments : 0

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.