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Archive - Oct 1, 2009

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New Clue to Tuberculosis

Scientists have discovered a potential chink in the armor of the organism that causes tuberculosis in humans. They have shown that the organism (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) produces a compound (edaxadiene) that provides a defense mechanism against the killing power of macrophages that normally engulf and destroy harmful bacteria. The scientists have, in addition, identified molecules that inhibit the edaxadiene-producing enzyme and therefore have the potential to reduce the tuberculosis organism’s resistance to macrophage attack. The researchers cautioned, however, that finding an inhibitor that works outside of the test tube, and in humans, and is stable, and can be ingested safely by humans, and can help kill tuberculosis is a process that may take a decade. Nevertheless, Dr. Reuben Peters, senior author of the study, said, "This is the project where I tell my students, 'If we can make even just a 1 percent impact, we can save 15,000 - 20,000 lives a year.' That is really a significant contribution towards alleviating human suffering.” Tuberculosis is a contagious disease that is on the rise, killing 1.5 to 2 million people worldwide annually. Portions of this new work are reported in the August 28 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry and are slated to be the cover subject of an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society. [Press release] [JBC abstract]