The drug works by targeting mycobacterium tuberculosis’ defences rather than the bacteria itself. It can also take out its increasingly commonly antibiotic-resistant strains.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis secretes molecules called virulence factors, which block out the immune response to the infection.
Project-leader, Lydia Tabernero, said: “For more than 60 years the only weapon doctors have been able to use against TB is antibiotics.
“But resistance is becoming an increasingly worrying problem and the prolonged treatment is difficult and distressing for patients.
“The great thing about MptpB is that there’s nothing similar in humans – so our compound which blocks it is not toxic to the human cells. TB is an amazingly difficult disease to treat so we feel this is a significant breakthrough.”
The team at the University of Manchester hope the compound, developed after 10 years of painstaking research, will be ready for trials on humans within three to four years.
A spokesman at the university said: “Although a vaccine for TB was developed 100 years ago, one in three people across the world are thought to be infected with the infectious disease.
“About 1.7 million die from the bug each year worldwide and 7.3 million people were diagnosed and treated in 2018, up from the 6.3 million in 2016.”
Tabernero said the next stage of research is to further optimise the chemical compound, with clinical trials on humans possible within four years.
The research has been published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.