A compound extracted from the South African toothbrush tree appears to inactivate tuberculosis in a previously unseen way.
According to the research brief, the compound that has been isolated is called diospyrin. This compound binds to a novel site on an enzyme, called DNA gyrase. DNA gyrase is essential for bacteria and plants but is not present in animals or humans. This makes it as an effective and safe drug target for antibiotics.
The reason that the tree (Salvadora persica), from which the compound has been isolated, is called the ‘toothbrush tree’ is because in traditional medicine the antibacterial properties of the tree are used for oral health and to treat medical complaints such bronchitis, pleurisy and venereal disease. Twigs from the tree were traditionally used as toothbrushes.
The toothbrush tree is a small tree or shrub with a crooked trunk, seldom more than one foot in diameter. It is also known as the Miswak.
The use of a compound from the natural world is not uncommon. Most antibiotics originate from natural sources, such as the soil bacteria Streptomyces.
Many of the current drugs used to combat tuberculosis are, according to the Financial Express, around 50 years old, sometimes less effective, and alternatives are needed. This new research may lead to some new drugs being developed.
The findings have been published in the of Biological Chemistry.