Scientists have pinpointed a specific protein that helps tuberculosis fight off the body's natural defence mechanism. The protein is able to withstand the acidification used by immune cells to engulf and digest the disease.
Acidification is an important mechanism used by immune cells or macrophages to fight Mycobacterium tuberculosis pathogens. It remains unclear, however, if acid kills the bacterium or if resistance to acidification is required for the development of the disease.
Online in Nature Medicine this week, Sabine Ehrt and colleagues found that Mycobacterium can actually survive the acidic environment inside macrophages due to a specific protein responsible for resistance. In the absence of this protein, Mycobacterium failed to survive, and its virulence was markedly reduced in mice.
On the basis of their findings, the authors propose that targeting the protein that creates resistance to acid is an attractive strategy against tuberculosis.
Sabine Ehrt (Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature Medicine press release.
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