R207910 is currently in clinical trials against multi-drug resistant tuberculosis strains, and scientists are hoping that it may now lead to improved and shortened treatments for this globally prevalent disease.
It is estimated that one third of the world population is infected, asymptomatically, with latent TB and is at risk of developing active TB disease during their life time.
In the new study, Anil Koul and colleagues at Johnson and Johnson, tested R207910 on dormant M. tuberculosis in three different laboratory models of latency. R207910 targets a protein (ATP synthase) essential for making cellular energy (ATP) in actively replicating TB.
According to the scientists, even dormant bacteria, which are usually physiologically "turned off", still need to produce small quantities of ATP to survive. Already, a block in ATP synthesis can be considered an Achilles heel for killing dormant bacteria.
This reasoning proved to be correct and R207190 could successfully destroy dormant bacteria by greater than 95 percent, while current drugs like isoniazid showed no effect.
To their surprise, they found that R207910 is slightly more effective in killing dormant bacteria as compared to actively replicating ones, a unique spin as all known TB drugs are more effective on replicating bugs.
Now, researchers hope to validate these results clinically, and note that ATP synthase should be looked at as a drug target for other persistent bacterial infections.