An international team of biochemists has discovered how an experimental drug unleashes its destructive force inside the bacteria that cause tuberculosis (TB). The finding could help scientists develop ways to treat dormant TB infections, and suggests a strategy for drug development against other bacteria as well.
A report describing the research, led by Clifton E. Barry, III, Ph.D., of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, is published in the Nov. 28 issue of Science. Dr. Barry's collaborators included scientists from NIAID and from the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases in Singapore.
One-third of the world's population is infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M. tb), the bacteria that cause TB. "Currently, there are no drugs available that specifically target latent tuberculosis infections in which bacteria are present but are not actively dividing," notes NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. "Dr. Barry and his colleagues have now given us a detailed picture of how the candidate TB drug PA-824 is metabolized inside Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Their discovery is a promising step towards developing effective drugs against latent TB as well as other bacteria."
Previously, Dr. Barry and his collaborators found that M. tb mutants lacking a specific bacterial enzyme were resistant to PA-824, but at that time, they did not know the function of the enzyme.
"It took several years, but at last we were able to recreate in the test tube what happens inside mycobacterial cells when the bacterial enzyme, which we named Ddn, and a second bacterial component called a cofactor, interact with PA-824," says Dr. Barry. The key event in PA-824 metabolism, they found, is the production of nitric oxide (NO) gas. "This highly reactive molecule," he adds, "is akin to a bomb blast that kills the bacteria from within."
NO gas is produced naturally by
|Contact: Anne A. Oplinger|
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases