Compound class found to stop TB growth

A team of researchers at Colorado State University may be one step closer to finding a cure for drug-resistant tuberculosis after making a discovery about a compound class that stops the growth of the bacterium.

Co-researchers Mike McNeil and Mary Jackson, professors in CSU's Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology, tested thousands of compounds against TB-causing bacterium in a study four years earlier. One of the compound classes halted the growth of TB bacterium, Times Call reports.

"So, we went one step further to ask 'How is it killing the bacterium?'" Jackson said, according to Times Call. "That's when we got very exciting news."

In late 2011, the team made a discovery that the compound class prevented a transporter in the bacterium cell from moving mycolic acids from inside to outside the cell. This may provide clues to defeating the unique cell walls of the bacterium, which differ from other bacterium due to its waxy texture that resists antibiotic penetration.

When the compound class disables the cell's ability to transport the wall-creating mycolic acid to protect the bacterium, the bacterium can no longer grow and it dies.

"It is like a factory making bricks with no way to get them to the construction site," McNeil said, according to Times Call.

While the discovery is important, it may take years to create a new medication to treat TB due to needed research and human clinical trials.

"But it could one day help us to treat all TB cases more effectively, which is especially important in those cases that are resistant to every other drug on the market," Jackson said, according to Times Call. "We are excited because it could provide a new solution."