The enemy of my enemy

Strains of antibiotic resistant tuberculosis are becoming more common and it is expected that nearly half of all cases of the disease will survive exposure to traditional front line drugs by 2050. This is driving an intense search for drugs that can bypass the resistances that are commonly seen arising in tuberculosis. Now a team is revealing that they have found a compound produced by another species of bacterium that regularly infects human lungs that looks like it has tremendous potential to control tuberculosis infections.

The compound in question is produced by the species Burkholderia gladioli. While exceptionally rare in most people, B gladioli thrives in the lungs of those suffering from cystic fibrosis. The reason the team behind the new research was attracted to this species is because, once it establishes itself in the lungs, it does an astounding job of making sure that no other bacteria encroach on its turf. This suggested that the species was producing compounds that had the potential to inhibit the growth of competition and this is precisely what the team discovered when they took a closer look. You can read more in The Economist article that I wrote on this here.