Australian scientists, looking at the genetics of TB, could be well on their way to a drug to treat the disease even when it is latent.
Tuberculosis infections sometimes stay dormant, making it impossible to treat with current drugs.
Dr Nick West, of the Mycobacterial Research Group, said when someone is infected with TB they either become sick immediately or the disease stays inactive.
"Unfortunately, the antibiotics we use to fight TB aren't effective against latent TB and can only be used when the disease becomes active," he said.
"This is a major problem as 1 out of 10 people who have latent TB will develop the active disease, becoming sick and contagious."
He and his team at the University of Sydney's Centenary Institute say they have made a vital discovery in the development of a new drug that could cure TB in the latent stage. If the project succeeds, it will be the first new treatment for TB since 1962.
"If we can figure out a way to treat TB when it's in a latent stage, then we could save millions of lives throughout the world."
They could indeed be close to that. "We have investigated a protein that is essential for TB to survive and we have had some success in developing a drug that will inhibit this protein. Our goal over the coming months is to find out the full extent of this drug's potential," Dr West said.
TB kills almost 2 million people each year. One third of the world's population or two billion people are infected with TB. Every second of every day another person is infected.
It is also at Australia's doorstep with the fastest growing incidence of the disease occurring in South East Asia.
The University of Sydney's Centenary Institute, Australasia's largest TB research facility, is mounting a major fight against the global killer.