by Elise Steinberger
While news of a case of extremely drug-resistant tuberculosis in Chicago makes its way across the nation, we ask ourselves, where do we go from here? When modern medicine can’t work its magic, for a moment we remain disoriented.
Germs are everywhere. While we’ve all likely heard about the problem of drug-resistant bacteria – the ones that can’t be killed by antibiotics – the process of how researchers create new antibiotics is a mystery to most. Compounds for these drugs come from a variety of sources, including nature.
In the Murphy Lab at the University of Illinois in Chicago, researchers take compounds from aquatic environments to see whether they could be used to treat diseases. One such “drug lead” is a class of molecules, called diazaquinomycins, they found in Lake Michigan five years ago. This class seems to treat drug-resistant tuberculosis, a disease infecting roughly one-third of the global population according to the National Institutes of Health. But, the process is long and this is only the beginning. The Murphy Lab collaborates with other labs and is working with The Institute for Tuberculosis Research at the University of Illinois at Chicago to test the drug lead against virulent tuberculosis in a special, high-safety laboratory.