Johns Hopkins researchers identify TB's natural resistance to antibiotics

Front-line treatments for TB are eroding rapidly as more cases of multidrug-resistant TB arise worldwide. | File photo

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine biophysicists recently found that the bacteria causing tuberculosis (TB) may be naturally resistant to antibiotics, called fluoroquinolones, which could help researchers strengthen TB drugs that have weakened over time.

The biophysicists made this discovery using maps that showed 3-D details of the structure of the drugs while the medicines interacted with TB’s essential enzyme.

"Front-line treatments for TB are eroding rapidly as more cases of multidrug-resistant TB arise worldwide," Dr. James Berger, professor of biophysics and biophysical chemistry, said. "Our work helps show that we need not -- and indeed should not -- give up on fluoroquinolones, a longtime weapon in the fight against disease-causing bacteria in general. We've helped to identify several promising possibilities for developing new versions of these drugs that might even work against extensively drug-resistant TB."

The maps also showed the reason that some of the TB drugs are stronger while others are weaker. This could help scientists develop fluoroquinolones that are more efficient against the mutating disease

"This result means the fluoroquinolones aren't working in the most straightforward way, and that's a challenge for drug developers," Berger said. "We have to rethink the chemistry of these drugs, but doing so will likely open up new avenues for improvements."

The study is available in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Organizations in this story

John Hopkins Medicine

Get notified the next time we write about John Hopkins Medicine!