By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: With anthrax emerging as the favourite biological
warfare weapon, a team of researchers from Guntur district has found
that the deadly bacterium can be tackled by attacking its genetic
material and protein molecules.
Researchers from the department of biotechnology, Acharya Nagarjuna
University (ANU), have adapted a novel strategy to beat anthrax, which
is fast developing resistance to powerful antibiotics. They discovered
270 non-human and non-redundant homologous genes and 103 essential
genes in the anthrax bacterium, Bacillus anthracis.
These genes can be targeted to kill the bacterium and treat anthrax in
case of an epidemic, whether natural or triggered by bioterrorism or
biological war. Anthrax is a disease of animals and man and is
transmitted through spores. It cannot spread from person to person.
The spores can enter the skin through cuts, lungs through breathing
and digestive tract through contaminated food. Once the spores enter
the body they grow into the adult bacterium causing anthrax. If not
treated in time, it could cause severe health problems including even
Anthrax can be treated through antibiotics, but of late, it has
developed resistance. Since the ANU team has identified the target
genes, new antibiotics can be developed to cure anthrax cases more
These genes help the anthrax bacterium in its metabolism, virulence
and protection against the host’s defence mechanism and common
antibiotics. As different genes are targeted, it will be easier to
kill the pathogen, and reduce its chances of developing resistance to
The research team comprising GV Ravi, AL Jyothsna, D Pavani and KRS
Sambasiva Rao also identified about two dozen different types of
proteins, which can be utilised to design new medicines to treat all
the three types of anthrax – skin, lung and stomach. Their research
was published in the latest issue of International Journal of
Computational Biology and Drug Design.
“Since 270 genes are exclusive to the bacterium and not present in
human beings, these genes can be targeted. With the heightened
interest in Bacillus anthracis as a potential biological threat agent,
novel drug targets identification is of great importance in drug
discovery. Our study considered a genome–wide approach as putative
drug targets,” the researchers pointed out.
The ANU team is now preparing computer models that can be used in
designing new drugs and targeting the bacterium genomically.
Wednesday, 26 September 2012
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