Disabling a set of genes in a strain of the tuberculosis bacteria surprisingly led to a mutant form of the pathogen that multiplied more quickly and was more lethal than its natural counterpart, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.
As early as two weeks after infection, researchers found significantly more bacteria from the organs of mice infected with the mutated tuberculosis (TB) bacteria than for mice infected with the unmodified, or "wild-type," strain. By 27 weeks, the mutant-infected mice started to die, while their counterparts infected with the wild-type strain survived until the end of the experiment at 41 weeks.
"These findings came as a complete surprise to us," said Dr. Lee Riley, professor of epidemiology and infectious diseases at UC Berkeleys School of Public Health and principal investigator of the study. "We thought we had made a mistake, so we repeated the test several times, and we always got the same result."
Sarah Yang | UC Berkeley
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