New finding could aid fight against tuberculosis

A single protein appears responsible for the ability of some tuberculosis-causing bacteria to evade antibiotics, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The finding suggests that blocking this protein may help shorten TB treatment, which can often last for months because of persistent bacterial subpopulations.

The study was published online May 31, 2017, in Nature.

Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb)—the microbe that causes TB—can create daughter cells that are physiologically diverse, which makes them less susceptible to antibiotics. But Harvard Chan researchers found that Mtb without a protein called LamA formed bacteria that were far less diverse—and thus more uniformly susceptible to antibiotics.

Co-authors of the study were Eric Rubin, Irene Heinz Given Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, and researcher Rebecca Audette, both of Harvard Chan School; and E. Hesper Rego, a former postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Chan who is now at Yale University School of Medicine.

The research was supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.

Read an NIAID article: Mycobacteria Use Protein to Create Diverse Populations, Avoid Drugs

Read a June 5, 2017 article on Blocking a Mycobacterial Protein Could Help Fight TB