Enzyme critical to treating TB identified

Researchers from Colorado State University recently announced that they have identified an enzyme that could become critical in treating tuberculosis.

Current estimates show that approximately one-third of the world is infected with TB. In 2010, 1.4 million people died from the disease or illnesses related to TB infection. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes nine million people contracted the illness that same year, according to the Denver Post.

CSU scientists discovered an enzyme that appears to be critical to the survival and replication of the bacteria that causes TB. The enzyme has the potential to become a key target for new drugs and could potentially cut the long, daily, six month antibiotic treatment regimen.

Critically, the enzyme is present in both replicating and non-replicating strains of the bacteria, as well as resistant strains. Non-replicating strains, like resistant strains, are much more difficult to kill with current antibiotics.

"Another interesting observation that arose from our work is that this enzyme — known as FBA-tb — is on the surface of the bacterium," Mary Jackson, an associate professor in CSU's Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology, said, the Denver Post reports. "Because it is on the surface, it has the ability to interact with a human substance called plasminogen, which plays a key role in our immune response. This finding suggests that the bacteria that cause tuberculosis may use this enzyme to manipulate our immune system that spread tuberculosis throughout our body. We are looking into that theory now."

The CSU research was recently published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.