Enzyme that lets TB destroy lung tissue discovered

Scientists have discovered the enzyme that allows tuberculosis to destroy lung tissue, an achievement that may be revolutionary to treatment, according to a study published  on Monday in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Health officials are encouraged by the isolation of MMP-1, the enzyme that drives the destruction of the lung tissue, because enzyme-inhibitors already exist.

Tuberculosis is an infectious bacterial disease that is transmitted from person to person via droplets from people with the active respiratory disease. An estimated 1.7 million people died from TB in 2009, with most of those deaths occurring in Africa, according to the World Health Organization.

Currently, the only treatment available is a six month antibiotic regimen, which may not work against drug-resistant strains.

“Standard TB treatment has remained unchanged for 35 years, and no current treatments prevent the lung destruction that TB causes,” Paul Elkington, co-author of the study, said.

Widely developed in the 1990s, drugs that inhibit MMP enzymes, like the Ro32-3555 compound, have successfully suppressed M. tuberculosis-driven MMP-1 activity in phase III clinical trials, according to the study.

Even with the clinical study results, researchers from the report said that more studies are needed to demonstrate whether MMP inhibitors can prevent lung damage from TB on a larger scale.