Belgian scientists recently discovered that Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria that causes tuberculosis, has a unique defense against the effects of oxygen.
Joris Messens of the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology, the research team’s leader, said that an understanding of the bacterium’s defense mechanism could help in the search for a more effective treatment, according to InfectionControlToday.com.
“We have discovered how Mycobacterium survives the oxygen stress in our body, namely with the aid of the protein mycoredoxin-1,” Messens said, InfectionControlToday.com reports. “This opens up a whole new field of research into the role of this protein during a tuberculosis infection. A better understanding of this mechanism will enable us to combat this bacterium more selectively.”
The human immune system uses reactive oxygen molecules in its defense against intruders like M. tuberculosis. When the bacterium’s proteins begin to take damage from oxygen stress, it attaches mycthiol molecules to them for protection. The proteins, however, cannot continue to function normally until the mycthiol is removed.
Mycoredoxin-1, itself a protein, is the key to the system. It selectively attaches mycthiol and then removes it, ensuring the protein can reactivate once the oxygen stress is gone.
“We could combat tuberculosis more effectively by searching for components that disable mycoredoxin-1. The bacterium would not be able to recover as quickly from an oxygen attack by our immune system,” Messens said, according to InfectionControlToday.com.