A new way to make bacteria glow could simplify TB screening | Science News

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A new way to make bacteria glow could simplify TB screening

The stain could also speed up tuberculosis drug-resistance tests

2:03pm, February 28, 2018
tuberculosis bacteria

MARKING MICROBES  When tuberculosis bacteria, seen in this scanning electron micrograph, gobble up a new synthetic molecule, they glow under a microscope — making them easy to spot in tests.

A new molecule that reveals active tuberculosis bacteria in coughed-up mucus and saliva could simplify TB diagnoses and speed up tests for detecting strains of the disease that are resistant to drugs.

This synthetic molecule is a modified version of a sugar that TB bacteria consume to help build their cell walls. The sugar is tagged with a dye that lights up under a fluorescent microscope — but only if the dye isn’t surrounded by water. Dubbed DMN-Tre, the hybrid molecule stays dark until it enters a fatty, water-repellant layer in a TB bacterium’s cell wall, where it starts to glow, researchers report online February 28 in Science Translational Medicine.

Standard tests use dyes that stain a bunch of different bacteria, so technicians have to bleach the dye off everything except the TB cells, says Sumona Datta, a tuberculosis researcher at Imperial College London

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