TB OR NOT TB
Tuberculosis is the biggest bacterial killer in the world and infects about one in three people. Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bug causing the disease, is difficult to target because it can sit quietly in human lung tissue for decades before striking.
This week [Nature, Vol. 406, Issue 6797, August 17, 2000], a collaboration between the Washington University School of Medicine (St Louis), the Albert Einstein College of Medicine (New York), the Rockefeller University (New York) and Texas A&M University (College Station) reveals a biochemical process that M. tuberculosis needs for such long-term survival in mice. The results have important implications for treating the disease in humans — and could help researchers develop an effective vaccine.
The pathway is called the ‘glyoxylate shunt’ and helps M. tuberculosis adapt to long-term survival. Bacteria unable to make a key enzyme in this pathway grow normally, but cannot then survive in a ‘latent’ state; and the mice immune system clears the microbes from the lungs.
The research "represents a milestone in our efforts to demystify mycobacterial latency," William Bishai of John Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, says in an accompanying News and Views article.
David G. Russell (Washington University School of Medicine. Currently at Cornell University)
tel +1 607 253 4272,
John D. McKinney (Rockefeller University) tel +1 212 327 7081,
James Sacchettini (Texas A&M University)
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Bill Jacobs (Albert Einstein College of Medicine)
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tel +1 410 955 3507,
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(C) Nature press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza