Scientists identify gene that prevents TB strains from becoming drug-resistant, study shows

Researchers have identified a gene, called NucS, that prevents tuberculosis strains from becoming antibiotic-resistant, according to a study published in Nature Communications.

The researchers used a genetic screen, which involved knocking out nearly every gene in mycobacteria — the infectious microbe which causes tuberculosis — and screening to see whether mutant strains grew on a specific antibiotic. They found that a DNA repair enzyme, which the NucS gene produced, dramatically reduces mutations.

The researchers believe this discovery could help them gain an understanding of how superbugs develop.

"Incredibly, for many years it was believed that mycobacteria lacked any mutation avoidance genes," said Professor Aidan Doherty, a study author from the University of Sussex, England. "Therefore, the discovery that the NucS gene reduces the rate at which mutations occur in these pathogens is a crucial first step towards identifying the genetic factors that influence the onset of antibiotic-resistance. This will enable scientists and clinicians to screen for strains that are most likely to develop drug-resistance and figure out strategies to tackle this serious threat."

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