Researchers reveal new targets for anthrax drugs

A research team from India is using the genome of the deadly Bacillus anthracis bacterium to determine new targets for anti-anthrax drugs.

The targets are proteins found in the bacteria that are not found in humans. Developing drugs to target the proteins that aid the disease in cell wall synthesis, metabolism and bacterial persistence could lead to a drug cocktail to kill the bacteria and prevent drug resistance.

A team at Acharya Nagarjuna University in Andhra Pradesh and the Osmanaia University College for Women in Hyderabad searched the bacteria genome to identify 270 non-human, non-redundant homologous genes and 103 essential bacterial genes as potential targets.

Sixteen membrane-bound proteins, three adhesion molecules and seven proteases the team found could be used to design new drugs that use novel modes of action.

Treating anthrax requires early diagnosis and the use of powerful antibiotics. The bacteria have evolved resistance to antibiotics like doxycycline and ciprofloxacin. By identifying new targets for antibiotics, the team hopes that treatment will reduce the chances of the bacteria evolving resistance.

The next step in the process is for researchers to create homology models of each target against which possible drugs could be screened on a computer. The scientists can then synthesize the compounds in a laboratory and test them against the bacteria in a secure laboratory.