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Antibacterial found in soil may lead to new TB drug

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Melbourne: Scientists have discovered a new antibacterial compound found in soil that may pave the way for treatments against drug-resistant tuberculosis. Tuberculosis (TB) causes more deaths than any other infectious disease including HIV/AIDs, researchers said. In 2015 there were an estimated 10.4 million new cases of TB and 1.4 million deaths from the disease.

The bacterium causing TB (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) is becoming increasingly resistant to current therapies, meaning there is an urgent need to develop new TB drugs. In 2015 an estimated 480,000 cases were unresponsive to the two major drugs used to treat TB. It is estimated more than 250,000 TB deaths were from drug-resistant infections.

Researchers from University of Sydney in Australia discovered a new compound which may translate into a new drug lead for TB. The group was drawn to soil bacteria compounds known to effectively prevent other bacteria growing around them.


Using synthetic chemistry, the researchers were able to recreate these compounds with structural variations, turning them into more potent compounds called analogues. When tested in a containment laboratory these analogues proved to be effective killers of Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

“These analogues inhibit the action of a key protein needed to build a protective cell wall around the bacterium,” said Payne. “Without a cell wall, the bacterium dies. This wall-building protein is not targeted by currently available drugs, said Richard Payne from University of Sydney.

“The analogues also effectively killed TB-causing bacteria inside macrophages, the cells in which the bacteria live in human lungs,” Payne said. The findings are the starting point for a new TB drug. The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.