Inducing TB to kill itself

This is an image from a brutal and self-defeating civil war, and it just might point the way to a better treatment for tuberculosis.

Bacteria produce toxins that are lethal to themselves. They also produce their own antidotes. Scientists are still unsure of the role of these suicide toxins, but it’s possible that they function as a population-control mechanism when conditions are harsh.

Now, a team of researchers led by Olivier Neyrolles from the Institute of Pharmacology and Structural Biology in Toulouse, France, has found a way to induce the bacteria responsible for tuberculosis, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, to produce its suicide toxin, called MbcT, without also producing the antidote.

The research is published in the journal Molecular Cell, and the scientists hope that further work will point the way to a new treatment protocol.

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