Genomics and the chemotherapy of leprosy
The information deduced from the genome sequence of Mycobacterium leprae is of immense value for the chemotherapy of leprosy. Knowing the complete set of genes, enzymes and proteins allows us to understand why some drugs are without effect whereas others are fully active. It may also enable better use to be made of existing drugs, such as beta-lactams, and opens new avenues for the development of novel compounds. M. leprae is relatively susceptible to a wide range of drugs, unlike the highly related tubercle bacillus, and several new multidrug regimens are in clinical trials. Genomics provides a number of possible explanations for this broader susceptibility as some of the genes encoding enzymes involved in antibiotic inactivation have decayed whereas the number of transporters available to contribute to drug efflux is considerably lower than in Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Several leads for new drug targets have been uncovered.