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Researchers have uncovered the structure of a regulatory mechanism unique to bacteria, opening the door for designing new antibiotics targeted to pathogens. As the threat of antibiotic-resistant germs grows, the discovery offers hope for finding an alternative way to target disease-causing bacteria. In the study, the researchers used X-ray crystallography to reveal the structure of so-called “T-box” elements in the pathogen mycobacterium tuberculosis, the model bacterium in the study.

T-boxes are structures that recognise when a cell is deficient in a specific amino acid, the building blocks of cells, and they allow bacteria to respond to this deficiency by initiating a process that generates more of that amino acid. In this way, T-boxes facilitate basic functioning in bacteria, including many pathogens such as m.tuberculosis and bacillus anthracis, which causes the deadly anthrax disease.

“The T-boxes are only found in bacteria and they control essential genes. This makes them an attractive antibiotic target because they are also essential for a lot of these bacteria to respond to starvation conditions,” Battaglia said. Battaglia also explained that if they can develop some sort of drug to target these T-box elements to mess with their ability to bind with the tRNA, they could be a really good choice for an antibiotic we don’t have (Battaglia, Grigg, Ke. Structural basis for tRNA decoding and aminoacylation sensing by T-box riboregulators. Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, 2019; DOI: 10.1038/s41594-019-0327-6)

It is necessary to understand that the underlying cellular mechanisms in pathogens is becoming increasingly important as the concern over antibiotic-resistant bacteria grows. This will allow researchers to identify new therapeutic targets based on new discoveries.

The T-box is a relatively large DNA binding domain which contains transcription factors that govern the bacterial response to amino acid starvation by triggering a series of events to increase the production of proteins in the cell. The T-box region recognises many transcription factors for protein synthesis. In this way, T-boxes are essential for properly functioning cells, including pathogens such as mycobacterium tuberculosis.

The author wants to conclude with the following paragraphs: On March 24, 1882, Dr. Robert Koch announced the discovery of mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria that causes tuberculosis (TB). During this time, TB killed one out of every seven people living in the United States and Europe. Dr. Koch’s discovery was the most important step taken toward the control and elimination of this deadly disease. A century later, March 24 was designated World TB Day: a day to educate the public about the impact of TB around the world.

Until TB is eliminated, World TB Day won’t be a celebration. But it is a valuable opportunity to educate the public about the devastation TB can spread and how it can be stopped.