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Virginia Tech professor discovers new TB pathogen
Date:9/30/2010

Kathleen Alexander, associate professor of wildlife in Virginia Tech's College of Natural Resources and Environment, has discovered a novel tuberculosis (TB) species in the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex, a group of pathogens that have adapted by using mammals as hosts. It has been nearly two decades since a new organism was identified in this group; the majority were discovered in the early and mid 20th century.

Tuberculosis is presently the leading cause of death from infectious disease, infecting more than a third of the world's population.

Alexander discovered that banded mongoose a species common in central and eastern Africa that were living closely with humans in northern Botswana were dying from a mysterious, tuberculosis-like disease. She and colleagues have now identified the pathogen as M. mungi sp. nov., a previously unidentified bacteria species from the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex.

A pathogen is any living agent causing disease, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, yeast, and certain insect larval stages.

"This pathogen behaves very differently from the other tuberculosis infections in the complex and offers us a great opportunity to learn what drives tuberculosis evolution and ecology, providing possible insight into the control of this important group of pathogens," Alexander pointed out.

Tuberculosis normally manifests as a respiratory disease and is spread through breathing the bacteria into the lungs, but M. mungi behaves in a completely different way. The infection appears to be associated with environmental exposure and movement of the pathogen into the banded mongoose host through the animal's nose, possibly through abrasions on the surface of the nose that might result from feeding activity.

Unlike other species of tuberculosis, which typically present as a chronic disease, M. mungi usually kills infected banded mongoose within two to th
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Contact: Lynn Davis
davisl@vt.edu
540-231-6157
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert  

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