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Scientists from Leicester have claimed a significant breakthrough in their research into the spread of tuberculosis.
TB bacteria accumulate “fat” that may help them to survive passing from one person to another and boost their resistance to drugs, a team of microbiologists working with University of London experts found.
The finding could challenge the established view that TB bacteria coughed up in sputum by infected individuals multiply rapidly.
The University of Leicester team discovered that the number of bacteria may not grow. Instead, the bacteria survive in large amounts by accumulating fatty deposits and effectively “shutting down” to make the journey from one person to another.
Lead investigator Mike Barer, Professor of Clinical Microbiology in the Department of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation at the university, said: “Strenuous efforts are being made to reduce the global burden of tuberculosis, a disease which kills four people every minute.
“Our success so far has been limited for many reasons; one of these is our failure to control the spread of TB from one person to another. Very little is known about this vital part of the bacterium’s life cycle.
“If scientists could understand more about the transmission of TB between people, they might identify new therapeutic and preventative targets.”
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