Pos­si­ble new weapon against TB lurks in dirt

Modern Healthcare - - Outliers Asides & Insides -

The key to de­feat an­tibi­oti­cre­sis­tance in tu­ber­cu­lo­sis may be at our feet—lit­er­ally.

The mi­crobe that causes TB of­ten mu­tates when an an­tibi­otic such as ri­famycin is used, ren­der­ing it re­sis­tant to the treat­ment.

Now re­searchers at Rock­e­feller Univer­sity say they’ve found a nat­u­ral an­tibi­otic that could take ri­famycin’s place. And it’s found in soil.

“I wanted to find out whether na­ture had also made Rif analogs— mol­e­cules that look like ri­famycin, but that have slight dif­fer­ences,” said Sean F. Brady, Evnin pro­fes­sor at the univer­sity.

The re­search was re­cently pub­lished in Na­ture Com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

Nat­u­ral an­tibi­otics found in soil called kan­gle­mycins are struc­tured sim­i­larly to ri­famycin, but have key dif­fer­ences: They bind to mu­tated bac­te­ria se­quences, still al­low­ing them to com­bat TB, un­like ri­famycin.

Brady hy­poth­e­sizes that kan­gle­mycins may have de­vel­oped in soil in re­sponse to the types of evo­lu­tion­ary pres­sures also seen in hos­pi­tals.

“It’s pos­si­ble that nat­u­ral an­tibi­otics are un­der the same selec­tive pres­sure that we’re putting an­tibi­otics un­der in the clinic. And if that’s the case, then we would see nat­u­ral analogs to ri­famycin, like kangs, that over­come re­sis­tance,” Brady said.

This dis­cov­ery could help re­searchers de­velop stronger an­tibi­otics to fight TB, though there’s still work to be done.

“We’d still like to see in­creased po­tency and broader ac­tiv­ity against re­sis­tant bugs,” Rock­e­feller re­search as­so­ci­ate pro­fes­sor El­iz­a­beth Campbell said. “But this study tells us that we’re on the right track.”


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