Enzyme fix for degrading lung in TB
London - British Scientists have identified a key enzyme responsible for destroying lung tissue in tuberculosis (TB), they reported in the Journal of Clinical Investigation (Vol. 121, N. 5, May 2011). The results could rapidly be
commercialised, as drugs that inhibit this enzyme are already available. The study was undertaken by researchers at Imperial College London with collaborators at Columbia University in New York and the University of East
The mechanism behind the lung damage in TB is poorly understood, and no
treatments currently used prevent it from occurring. Patients require at
least six months of antibiotic treatment, but drug- resistant strains of the
bacterium are becoming increasingly common.
The new research shows that in patients with TB, there is an increase in
levels of an enzyme called MMP-1 in their lungs. When transgenic mice were
infected with TB, MMP-1 levels increased significantly and the infection led
to lung damage similar to that seen in humans with TB. "Until now, we
haven't had a convincing explanation of how lung destruction is caused by
TB", says Jon Friedland, senior author of the study from the Department of
Infectious Diseases and Immunity at Imperial College London.
The scientists also found that a drug proven to be safe in humans was
effective at suppressing MMP-1 activity driven by TB infection in human
cells. The findings suggest that similar drugs might prevent lung damage in
TB patients and help limit the spread of the disease.