Researchers in India have discovered a protein that could play a major role in the development of a tuberculosis treatment.

The mycobacterial protein called Rv1988 curbs how cells respond to the mycobacterium tuberculosis, suppressing the immune system so TB can thrive. The mycobacterial protein Rv1988 could be also be a TB biomarker and aid in diagnosis.

The Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics has filed a patent for the protein discovery, said Giriraj R. Chandak, the CDFC's director. The team, which was led by Laboratory of Mammalian Genetics group head Sanjeev Khosla, is studying the potential development of a new TB drug.

"We will now talk to clinicians and private partners like pharma companies or [others] who have complete know-how in drug development," said Chandak, who explained that the main goal is to find a way to either obstruct the protein or attach an enzyme which could reverse the protein's function.

The scientific and medical communities have staged an ongoing battle against tuberculosis for decades, Chandak said, looking for ways to control the mycobacterium tuberculosis, the illness' contributing organism. Despite extensive research, no drug has been developed to completely cure the disease. The mycobacterium tuberculosis has the ability to overpower the body's immune system, which renders many drugs and vaccines insufficient in battling the disease.

"This study will be of great help in understanding the interaction of TB-causing pathogens with [the] human body and which will be useful in better diagnosis of TB and also prevention," said Chandak.

According to the World Health Organization, there were 9.6 million people worldwide who contracted TB in 2014, which led to 1.5 million deaths. The health agency also reported that more than 95 percent of documented TB cases happen in low- and middle-income nations, making it one of the top five killers among women aged 15 to 44 years old.

The recent discovery of the mycobacterial protein Rv1988 will tackle the current inadequacies of existing TB treatments and diagnosis, explained Khosla. The researchers are hopeful that the protein's discovery will lead to the development of a drug that can finally cure the long-standing disease that has baffled the scientific and medical communities since ancient times.

The breakthrough research was published Nov. 16 in the Nature Communications journal

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