Washington, Mar 13 : University of Leicester researchers have made a breakthrough in the fight against tuberculosis by finding how the TB bacterium becomes resistant to one of the only available treatments.
A team from the Departments of Biochemistry and Chemistry at the University, led by Dr Peter Moody, has discovered the mechanism how the TB bacterium turns immune to a vital component.
"Isoniazid is a pro-drug that an enzyme in the deadly bacteria itself makes active. Using the technique of protein crystallography and the incredibly bright X-ray source of the European Synchrotron at Grenoble, my team and that of Professor Emma Raven of the Chemistry Department at Leicester along with Dr Katherine Brown of Imperial College have shown how the pro-drug binds to two very similar enzymes - and from this we can see how mutations in the bacterial enzyme protect it from the treatment," said Moody.
This is the first of its kind discovery that has demonstrated the way the pro-drug binds to activating enzymes.
"Drug-resistant forms of TB are approaching 10% of the 8000 cases a year in the UK, so understanding how this works is very important," said Dr Moody.
It is now expected that this knowledge may be put to use by drug companies to devise treatments for the resistant strains.
"Unfortunately, development of the UK synchrotron source (Diamond) is under threat because of the shortfall in funding, which could limit our ability to do this sort of fundamental medical research in the future," added Moody.
The findings of this study are published in Journal of Biological Chemistry.