Enzymes seem to be essential in latent bacteria which produce tuberculosis
UN/DICYT The UNal Microbacteria Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Research Group (BBMM, for its Spanish acronym) was the first to research ATPase enzymes of the tuberculosis bacillus when nobody thought they were important.
After the work of the BBMM group several United States and French research groups, such as the Pasteur Institute have become interested in these enzymes.
According to UNal Chemistry Department Professor and leader of the group Carlos Yesid Soto, the group is working on three aspects: researching Mycobacterium colombiense, analyzing mycobacteria latency and developing new compounds to fight it, guaranteeing that the current research path is promising.
Regarding the first subject above, the group obtained a description of the biomarkers (what makes a bacteria or microorganism different from other very similar organisms) of Mycobacterium colombiense. To identify it they used a technique which in molecular biology is known as polymerase chain reaction. Additionally from the microbiological standpoint they tendered theories on the possible virulence of the bacteria.
They are also working with tuberculosis regarding latency. They have reported biomarkers within the structure of the bacteria, “Which may be very interesting when it comes to engineering a control method, whether it is by the immune system or with drugs”, said Soto.
According to the scientist this bacterium is dormant and drugs are designed for active bacteria; therefore they do not harm latent bacteria. Therefore he says that their interest is looking at which molecules are important for this particular physiological status.
“It not very clear when the bacteria pass from latent to active. In fact we are theorizing and working with the ATPase enzymes in charge of membrane ionic exchange and trying to make these bacteria change from latent to active where they are vulnerable to traditional anti-tuberculosis treatments,” said Soto.
Tuberculosis sky-rocketed with HIV and currently is the most lethal infectious disease which produces more bacterial sourced deaths in the world.
Soto says that every time someone gets on the Bogotá public transport system (TransMilenio), one out of every 10 people is infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis. This means that 30% of the Colombian population would be infected by the bacteria although their immune systems response does not allow the disease to develop.
“I actually carry the bacteria but I didn’t get it in Colombia, ironically I got it at the Pasteur Institute. My immune system is good therefore the disease cannot thrive in my body. If I had immunosuppression it probably would’ve developed into tuberculosis,” said Soto.
The Office of the Environmental Secretary of Bogotá reports that since the beginning of the year there have been 79 cases of tuberculosis in Bogotá. 1,150 cases were reported in 2012, 72 less than in 2013 (1,222). Furthermore 2,100 people have been cured from tuberculosis between the years 2012 and 2013. In 2013 of the 1,222 reported cases, 15% belong to patients with HIV.
Therefore the work of BBMM group is very relevant. Soto considers that they are on the right path and highlights they have formed more than 30 students though undergraduate, masters and doctoral projects during the seven years since the group was incepted.
Professor Soto provided a conference within the Research Panorama Program organized by the UNal Sciences Faculty.