Hundres of FDA approved drugs linked to proteins in M. tuberculosis

In a study published in the November 4 issue of PLoS Computational Biology, scientists from California and England have linked hundreds of U.S. Food and Drug approved drugs to more than 1,000 proteins in Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent in tuberculosis.

The study, which promises to unlock new avenues of research into repurposing drugs to treat TB, was conducted by scientists at the University of California San Diego and the University of Leeds, U.K., according to

"Tuberculosis is currently one the most widely spread infectious diseases, with an estimated one-third of the world's population infected and between one and two million people dying each year from the disease," Philip Bourne, a professor of pharmacology at UCSD's Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, said, according to “The continuing emergence of M. tuberculosis strains resistant to all existing, affordable drug treatments requires the development of novel, effective and inexpensive drugs.”

Bourne said that the identification of new M. tuberculosis protein targets that can be affected by existing and approved drugs could lead to the discovery of new therapeutics to treat the drug-resistant form of the disease in a safe and cost-effective manner.

The researchers used a novel computational strategy to investigate if existing drugs might be able to bind with any of the approximately 40 percent of M tuberculosis proteomes that posses three-dimensional structures.

"While this new computational, high-throughput process of drug discovery is promising, only experiment can validate the most promising drug-target combinations, and there will be many failures along the way," Lei Xie, a research scientist on the project, said, according to

The scientists not only discovered that one-third of the drugs they tested may have potential to be repurposed to fight tuberculosis, but that many currently unexploited M. tuberculosis proteins could serve as novel anti-tubercular targets. The scientists were then able to create a complex network of drug interactions known as the TB drugome. The drugome will be available for all scientists to use in the future, reports.