The scientists said their research, led by Professor William Jacobs Jr., could lead to a potent TB therapy that would also prevent resistant TB strains from developing.
"This approach is totally different from the way any other anti-TB drug works," Jacobs said. "In the past few years, extremely drug resistant strains of TB have arisen that can't be eliminated by any drugs, so new strategies for attacking TB are urgently needed."
Jacobs said findings from the study could also enhance treatment of diseases caused by other species of mycobacteria. Leprosy, for example, which still occurs in the U.S. and other countries, is caused by a mycobacterium related to TB. He said treating leprosy now involves using several different drugs, some of which are also used to treat tuberculosis.
The study, which included scientists from Texas A&M University and Britain's John Innes Center and University of Birmingham, is detailed in the early online edition of the journal Nature Chemical Biology.
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