Comparative mycobacterial genomics as a tool for drug target and antigen discovery
Genomics and the associated downstream technologies are generating vast data sets that provide new opportunities for understanding and combating both infectious and genetic diseases in humans. The genomic approach has been applied to tuberculosis, a major cause of transmissible morbidity and mortality, with notable success. Complete genome sequences are now available for three members of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex and the related intracellular pathogen M. leprae. Many of the predictions generated in silico by genomics have been validated through functional analysis, including studies of the transcriptome and proteome, and led to the identification of essential genes. Knowledge of the latter defines potential targets for new and existing drugs and their specificity can be assessed by comparative genomics with the host or other pathogens. Genomics is also furthering tuberculosis vaccine development by pinpointing potentially antigenic proteins as well as providing better diagnostic tools to detect infection.