Gates funds TB research

03 November 2008

Dr Anwar Jardine's project to develop treatment for multi-drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis has won a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation worth US $100 000 (or R1million).

Jardine, who has only been with the Department of Chemistry in UCT's Faculty of Sciences since June this year, was chosen out of thousands of applicants to receive the foundation's Grand Challenges Explorations grant. Out of the 105 grants awarded by a blinded review process, Jardine is one of only three African recipients.

Only in its first stages, Jardine's research has targeted a relatively newly discovered pathway critical to the survival of TB-causing bacteria, and protocols have been set up to test the hypothesis that blocking this pathway will kill the latent form of the bacteria.

"Much like humans, bacteria create molecules to protect itself from attack," explains Jardine. "By blocking this molecule's assembly pathway and subsequent use, the TB-causing bacteria's defence is weakened and it becomes more vulnerable to existing TB medication."

As well as understanding how this molecule is used by the bacteria to protect itself, Jardine's research is aimed at contributing toward finding new potential drugs that will minimise the chance of resistance, which is a common problem with current therapeutic regiments.

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