Discovery helps fight against drug-resistant TB

London: A team of scientists has identified a naturally occurring antibiotic that may help in the fight against drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB).

Each year, approximately 10 million people fall ill with tuberculosis and around 1.7 million die from the devastating disease worldwide. One of the main antibiotics for TB is rifampicin, however, many strains of the tuberculosis-causing bacteria – Mycobacterium tuberculosis – have developed resistance to it.

Approximately 600,000 people are diagnosed with rifampicin-resistant tuberculosis every year. Now, researchers from Newcastle University and Demuris Ltd have identified that a naturally occurring antibiotic, called kanglemycin A – related to the antibiotic rifampicin – is active against rifampicin-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

It is hoped that this compound and the enhanced understanding gained from these studies may lead to effective new drug treatments in the future.

Nikolay Zenkin, lead author of the study, said: “Treatment of TB involves a cocktail of antibiotics administered over many months, and resistance to several key antibiotics is becoming a major public health problem around the world. Our findings are very exciting and the first step towards developing a new, effective drug treatment for patients with rifampicin resistant TB to prevent fatalities in the future.”

Dr Michael Hall, added: “This is an exciting development for the future treatment of rifampicin resistant TB and shows what can be achieved when local businesses and universities work together.”

He said: “Recent development of drug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis has made treatment of this disease even more challenging. Identifying new compounds that are effective against the rifampicin-resistant RNA polymerase is incredibly important for public health.”

The findings of the study have been published in the journal, Molecular Cell.