NEW YORK (July 29, 2008) -- With antibiotic resistance on the rise, tuberculosis is emerging as a bigger global health threat than ever before.
But now, innovative research at Weill Cornell Medical College suggests that Mycobacterium tuberculosis has an as yet unsuspected weakness -- one that could be a prime target for drug development.
"Using novel techniques, we have identified a key membrane protein that's essential to the defense that M. tuberculosis mounts against the acidic environment of immune cells called macrophages. Without this protein, called Rv3671c, the bacterium becomes vulnerable to acidification and is killed," explains lead author Omar H. Vandal, a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of study co-senior author Dr. Sabine Ehrt, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Weill Cornell Medical College.
"M. tuberculosis does not depend on Rv3671c under standard growth conditions in the test tube, so it has been overlooked as a candidate drug target," says Dr. Carl F. Nathan, also a senior author of the study and the R.A. Pritchett Professor of Microbiology. He is also chairman of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Weill Cornell.
Drs. Ehrt and Nathan co-supervised Dr. Vandal in this work while Dr. Vandal was a student at the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences. "However, when M. tuberculosis infects the host, then the Rv3671c protein becomes essential," added Dr. Ehrt. "This is an example of a new class of potential targets for anti-infective agents," continues Dr. Nathan, "those that the pathogen only needs in order to survive in the host environment."
The research was just published in Nature Medicine.
In numerous papers published in leading journals, Dr. Nathan has long pushed for an innovative approach to the development of anti-infective agents that goes beyond the traditional antibiotic paradigm. "That's exactly what w
|Contact: Andrew Klein|
New York- Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center/Weill Cornell Medical College