We want to understand the bacterium that causes tuberculosis, how it works and what we can do to stop it.
The bacterium which causes tuberculosis, Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), lives only in humans. In the thousands of years since it first infected us, it has become adapted to its human hosts, re-shaping its biology to give it the best chance of survival in the human body.
A third of the world’s population carries Mtb, and tuberculosis kills two million people a year. It’s also becoming more difficult to treat – Mtb’s flexibility means there are now strains that can withstand several of the antibiotics used to treat the infection.
We are working to understand at a cellular and molecular level how Mtb survives, causes disease, and develops resistance to antibiotics. We hope that this will lead to the development of new treatments for tuberculosis.
To do this, we use a range of techniques, the central one being ‘metabolomics’. This is the study of all the small molecules in cells - metabolites - which are the products and building blocks of biological processes. We are figuring out exactly what is in a Mtb bacterium, and how its components work together to make it into such a formidable pathogen.