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New TB drug candidates developed from soil bacteria

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Staff Writer | March 2, 2017
University of Warwick
Disease   A relic of past centuries

A new treatment for tuberculosis (TB) is set to be developed using compounds derived from bacteria that live in soil.

This is according an international collaboration of researchers, including the University of Warwick.

Believed by many to be a relic of past centuries, TB still causes more deaths than any other infectious disease, including HIV/AIDs.

In 2015 there were an estimated 10.4 million new cases of TB and 1.4 million deaths from the disease.

The research partnership – involving the University of Warwick, and spanning institutions from Australia, Canada and the USA - has discovered a compound which could translate into a new drug lead for TB.

The group looked at soil bacteria compounds, known to effectively prevent other bacteria growing around them.

Using synthetic chemistry, the researchers were able to recreate these compounds with structural variations, turning them into more potent chemical analogues.

When tested in a containment laboratory, these analogues proved to be effective killers of Mycobacterium tuberculosis – the bacterium which causes TB.

These chemicals target an enzyme in Mycobacterium tuberculosis called MraY, which catalyses a crucial step in building the cell wall around a bacterium.

Attacking this part – a potential ‘Achilles’ heel’ of the bacterium - provided an essential pathway for the antibacterial compounds to attack and destroy TB strains.

Key reagents and expertise in antimicrobial resistance from the research groups of Dr David Roper, Professor Chris Dowson and Professor Tim Bugg at the University of Warwick, played a crucial role in successfully targeting TB bacteria with the new compounds.


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