Research pinpoints TB resistance

Angus Morgan

05 February, 2015

Burnet scientists have played a key role in research that’s identified 15 genes thought to contribute to drug resistance in the most transmissible strain of tuberculosis (TB).

Pinpointing the mechanisms that make TB impervious to medical treatment raises hopes that new drugs can be developed to eliminate the bacterium, which kills 1.3 million people each year.

The international study, reported in the journal Nature Genetics, used DNA sequencing to track the evolution of the Beijing/East Asian TB lineage, believed to have originated in north-eastern China, Korea and Japan more than 6,500 years ago.

A total of 4987 clinical isolates from 99 countries, some of them linked to drug resistance, were analysed.

The study found variants of the Beijing strain “radiated worldwide in several waves” over the past two centuries, coinciding with emigration patterns and world events including the Industrial Revolution, World War I and, more recently, the HIV epidemic.

Research Assistant Eman Aleksic and Professor Suzanne Crowe from the Centre for Biomedical Research contributed their research into TB on Kiribati where incidence rates are among the highest in the Western Pacific.

“A lot of TB research had focused on particular countries or specific regions, but there had never been a combined effort to look at the strains and their evolution worldwide,” Eman said of the Beijing study.

“Looking at almost 5000 specimens at once by the same team meant that there was consistency, and they were able to correlate the findings and identify 15 mutations present in the Beijing strain.

“These mutations will now offer scientists novel avenues to research and develop therapeutic targets to combat TB, whether it’s a vaccine or a drug that could stop the replication of the bacteria.”

Staff Member

Health Issue

Contact Details

For more information in relation to this news article, please contact:

Professor Suzanne Crowe AO

Burnet Associate




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