Drug resistant tuberculosis has emerged as a deadly killer in recent years especially in the countries of Africa and Asia. Scientists have now been able to decode the gene map of a strain of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis. Researchers of the Broad Institute also sequenced the genome of another multidrug-resistant TB as well as the common tuberculosis bacteria and found mutations that may explain how the mutant strains evade antibiotics.
Tuberculosis is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It infects up to 2 billion people worldwide. In 2005, 8.8 million people became infected with TB and 1.6 million people died of it. The disease is most deadly among the third world population.
Traditional antibiotic treatment takes months to remove the infection. What is alarming is that the microbe can mutate and according to WHO, at present an estimated 500,000 people globally suffer from multidrug-resistant or MDR TB. Standard drugs cannot fight MDR TB and special antibiotics are prescribed.
The extensively drug resistant TB or XDR TB is virtually immune to all forms of known antibiotics and is most deadly of the variants. 85% of patients infected with XDR TB die of the infection.
The genetic sequencing of the various strains would help further development of accurate diagnosis to prevent and control the disease.