A study conducted by Weill Cornell Medical College, and published in the early online edition of Science, reports that mass spectrometry, a tool used to detect and measure proteins and lipids, now also allows biologists to “see” how previous tuberculosis (TB) antibiotics and treatments functioned, and work toward finding more effective ones in the future.
Researchers can “watch” at a basic biochemical level what happens over time after the drug is administered to both the antibiotic agent and infecting bacteria, thus providing more effective and accurate information about antibiotics. As a result of this finding, scientists may now be able to work toward further improving existing antibiotics and designing new ones that will ultimately fight against deadly infections, such as tuberculosis.
There is a pressing need for a treatment for tuberculosis, as it is currently the single leading bacterial cause of death in the world. This study allowed researchers to see the disconnect that exists between what biologists think a drug is doing and how it actually works inside of the cells, as was the case with aminosalicylic acid, the oldest TB drug on the market.
“Current TB treatments are long and complex, lasting a minimum of 6 months, and often resulting in treatment failures and the paradoxical emergence of multi-drug resistance,” said Kyu Y. Rhee, MD, PhD, infectious disease expert, and the study’s senior investigator. “We are still using the antibiotics that were first developed for TB about 50 years ago.”