press release
Published: 08 September 2021

Scientists discover how TB controls its growth, revealing new ways to fight the global disease

New research has shown that Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) controls its growth by modifying its DNA.  

The research team behind the study, led by the University of Surrey and the University of Oxford, propose that this identifies a new target for antibiotics against tuberculosis (TB).  

TB is usually caused by the MTB bacterium, and it grows very slowly, allowing it to cause infections that may last a lifetime. One-quarter of the world’s population may be infected with TB without knowing they have it, and it is estimated that TB causes around 1.3 million deaths each year. 

In a study published in Nature, the research team reveal that the newly discovered DNA modification system involves two enzymes, DarT and DarG, that reversibly modify chromosomal DNA to create a ‘switch’ that coordinates bacterial replication. By interfering with the DarT/DarG system, it becomes massively toxic to the bacterium and represents the target for a new class of antibiotics. 

Graham Stewart, Professor of Molecular Bacteriology at the University of Surrey and lead author of the study, said: “Before Covid-19, tuberculosis killed more people each year than any other infectious disease, and it will regain its infamy once the pandemic subsides.  

“Tuberculosis is a global health emergency and current antibiotics are becoming ineffective. This study describes a genuinely new piece of DNA biology that could be targeted by new antibiotics.” 

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