Novel tuberculosis species discovered

A novel tuberculosis species in the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex has been discovered by an associate professor at Virginia Tech's College of Natural Resources and Environment.

The Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex is a group of pathogens that adapted by using mammals as hosts. A new organism was last discovered in the group almost two decades ago, with the majority discovered in the early and mid-20th century, MedicalNewsToday.com reports.

Kathleen Alexander and her colleagues identified the pathogen, which is known as M. mungi sp. nov., after discovering a banded mongoose in central and eastern Africa that lived closely with humans and was dying from a tuberculosis-like disease.

"This pathogen behaves very differently from the other tuberculosis infections in the complex and offers us a great opportunity to learn what drives tuberculosis evolution and ecology, providing possible insight into the control of this important group of pathogens," Alexander told MedicalNewsToday.com.

Normally, tuberculosis manifests as a respiratory disease that is spread by breathing the bacteria into the lungs. M. mungi, however, is associated with environmental exposure and enters the banded mongoose through the noose, potentially through abrasions on the nose from feeding activity, MedicalNewsToday.com reports.

"Banded mongoose are able to live closely with people in disturbed environments as well as with other wildlife species in pristine environments," Alexander said, according to MedicalNewsToday.com. "Since the majority of pathogens emerge in wildlife species, this study system offers a critical opportunity for us to begin to understand how our modifications to the environment and interactions with wildlife influence how new diseases may emerge."