Though we don’t spend too much time worrying about tuberculosis (TB) here in the United States, its worldwide infection rate of one in three people suggests it’s a disease worth more consideration. In fact, TB kills 1.7 million people every year. What’s more, because the drug regimen for treating TB is so lengthy, patients often stop taking their medicine early, resulting in the development of drug-resistant TB.
Fortunately, Abramovitch does spend a lot of time worrying about TB. He’s been working with the disease for about six years, and has now developed an innovative new way to identify possible new treatments.
“I build strains of TB that are biosensors,” says Abramovitch. “They glow in response to conditions they would experience during a human infection. If we can find a drug to stop the biosensor from glowing, that compound might have the ability to help treat the disease.”
The glowing biosensor is so promising that Abramovitch was awarded a $100,000 Grand Challenges Explorations grant
by the Gates Foundation to continue with his research. He’ll now use the biosensors to screen 265,000 chemical compounds. Abramovitch hopes to find 40 to 50 compounds that impede the sensor’s glow, on which he would then conduct further research with the goal of developing a new TB drug.