Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Tuberculosis genomes portray secrets of pathogen's success

22.08.2013
By any measure, tuberculosis (TB) is a wildly successful pathogen. It infects as many as two billion people in every corner of the world, with a new infection of a human host estimated to occur every second.

Now, thanks to a new analysis of dozens of tuberculosis genomes gathered from around the world, scientists are getting a more detailed picture of why TB is so prevalent and how it evolves to resist countermeasures. Writing today (Aug. 21, 2013) in the journal Public Library of Science (PLoS) Pathogens, a team led by University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher Caitlin Pepperell describes a bacterium that marches in lockstep with human population growth and history, evolving to take advantage of the most crowded and wretched human conditions.

"It's as though the bacterium places bets on human behavior," says Pepperell, formerly of Stanford University, and now a professor of medicine and medical microbiology at UW-Madison. "It always bets that humans will go to war, send people to refugee camps, and gather in miserable places. Historically, that's been a winning bet on the bacterium's part."

The PLoS Pathogens study, whose senior author is Marcus Feldman of Stanford, reveals that tuberculosis experienced a 25-fold expansion worldwide in the 17th century, a time when human populations underwent explosive growth and European exploration of Africa, the Americas, Asia and Oceania was at its peak.

"The timing is coincident with expansion, urbanization and colonial migrations of global human populations," Pepperell explains. "These findings suggest that much of the current TB pandemic has its origins in historical events of the last three centuries."

TB is only transmitted by people, and the organism cannot survive in the environment. It thrives, however, in the crowded conditions of prisons, refugee camps and slums, and TB populations tend to be dominated by the bacteria "lucky" enough to land in those environments.

The analysis conducted by Pepperell and her colleagues focused on the role of natural selection, looking at patterns of genetic diversity among 63 TB and related pathogenic mycobacterial genomes gathered from around the globe.

The study shows a highly constrained bacterial genome, with most deleterious mutations quickly discarded. This was especially true for genes essential for causing disease, protein translation and the trafficking and metabolism of inorganic ions, which help control the interaction between the TB pathogen and its human host.

The bacterium's "defense" genes, on the other hand, showed a high degree of tolerance for beneficial mutations, which may play a role in evolution of drug resistance and evasion of the human immune system.

Pepperell notes: "Evolutionary theory predicts that Mycobacterium tuberculosis populations should be vulnerable to extinction. Yet it is obviously highly prevalent. It must have some incredibly clever strategies and tricks to hang on."

As a result, the explosive spread of TB parallels the growth of human populations and takes every advantage of a world where most people live in crowded and impoverished conditions.

The study, according to Pepperell, should help other researchers home in on genes that may be good candidates for targeting with new drugs, and aid disease control strategies that accommodate or even co-opt the bacterium's evolution and help drive its extinction.

In addition to Pepperell and Feldman, co-authors of the new study include Amanda Casto, Julie Granka and Omar Cornejo of Stanford; Andrew Kitchen of the University of Iowa; Eddie Holmes of the University of Sydney; and Bruce Birren and James Galagan of the Broad Institute.

—Terry Devitt, 608-262-8282, trdevitt@wisc.edu

Caitlin Pepperell | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.wisc.edu

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Study suggests possible new target for treating and preventing Alzheimer's
02.12.2016 | Oregon Health & Science University

nachricht The first analysis of Ewing's sarcoma methyloma opens doors to new treatments
01.12.2016 | IDIBELL-Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>