U.K. researchers reveal new understanding of TB antibiotic

New understanding of TB antibiotic
New understanding of TB antibiotic | Courtesy of cdc.gov
A team of researchers from the University of Sussex, based in the U.K., recently discovered a crucial process in tuberculosis (TB) bacterium that may serve to create novel antibiotics in order to treat the illness.

The researchers in Sussex collaborated with New York’s Rockefeller University to learn that a crucial process within Mtb cells. This process, called transcription, allows the cells to read the DNA information that differently compared to other bacteria. Bacteria use RNA polymerase to bind sigma proteins to the DNA, but Mtb uses RbpA to bind to DNA.

TB is one of the leading killers in the world. Experts estimate that 1.5 million people die each year from TB, and up to one third of the global population may be infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), which causes latent TB. Approximately one in ten people develop active TB.

Even though there are effective treatments for TB, antibiotic resistance has continued to escalate. Scientists must continually create new treatments to treat the new resistance, which is challenging.

"Up until recently, we've always thought that RNA polymerase, whether it's in one bacterium or another, is pretty much identical,” Dr. Mark Paget, lead researcher, said. “We now know that Mtb uses this additional protein and exactly what role it plays in transcription."

Further details are available in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the USA journal.