The six-member team from the Indian Institute of Chemical Biology (IICB) and the Bose Institute claims to have successfully tweaked the protein to develop a ‘stable and active’ protein-based molecule that will provide immunity against the disease, which can spread through coughing or sneezing.
The research has been published in the American Chemical Society’s ‘Langmuir’ journal.
The breakthrough could prove to be a boon, especially for Kolkata, which has 2% more paediatric TB patients than the national average, while 34% of the children in the state are believed to be susceptible to the disease. A large number of tuberculosis patients get the bacteria through transmission—especially in crowded public places — and not due to malnutrition, which is the principal trigger for TB.
The researchers led by Krishnananda Chattopadhyay, head of IICB’s structural biology and bioinformatics division, started working on the MPT 63 protein—well-known for its anti-TB characteristics —about a year-and-a-half ago. They soon realized that even though it could effectively fight the disease, the protein was unstable and couldn’t be made into a stable formulation in its original form.
To overcome this, they attempted to tag the protein to a nano particle and altered its genetic sequence to give it a structure suitable for a stable vaccine. But it was easier said than done, said Chattopadhyay, who has worked for more than a decade on developing biologics or protein-based drugs.