The family of bacteria that causes tuberculosis (TB) and leprosy are notoriously sturdy. And although the diseases they cause have been held in check for the past 50 years by antibiotics, some strains are becoming increasingly resistant to existing therapy.
Now, however, a new chink has been found in the cellular armor that makes these infectious diseases difficult to treat. The discovery, reported today (May 9) in the online editions of the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology by a team of chemists and biochemists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, opens the door to the development of a new family of antibiotics to treat diseases that still claim as many as 3 million lives annually worldwide.
"Most of the treatments we have for these diseases date from the 1950s," says Laura L. Kiessling, a UW-Madison professor of chemistry and the leader of the team reporting the new discovery. "Many traditional antibiotics don't work against tuberculosis."