Ram Sethu bacteria can fight TB, HIV

Ram Sethu or Adam’s Bridge may have raised political controversy, but a type of bacteria that lives in the vicinity holds promise to treat multi-drug resistant and extensive-drug resistant strains of tuberculosis and human immunodeficiency virus. Novel Streptomyces species R2, isolated from the coral reef ecosystem off the coast of Rameswaram in the vicinity of Ram Sethu, produces a substance called transitmycin, which is anti-bacterial and anti-viral in nature. The Indian Council of Medical Research plans to utilise this natural substance from novel Streptomyces species R2 to fight TB strains that have developed resistance to many known drugs.

Once the mandatory toxicity and bio-availability tests are completed, a new drug obtained from transitmycin will be available in the market. The substance will be tested for acute toxicity in rodents as part of the ICMR-sponsored research. According to an ICMR research proposal, transitmycin shows activity against drug-sensitive and drug-resistant M tuberculosis including multi-drug and extra drug-resistant isolates, and different clades of HIV. ICMR scientists have found the structure of transitmycin to be novel.

Besides, anti-TB and anti-HIV activity, the substance can act against dormant bacilli of Mycobacterium tuberculosis and other bacterial pathogens. It is also found to be active against non-replicative tubercle bacilli. “The process of production of compound is economically viable. It is a low molecular weight compound. An Indian patent application and PCT application have been filed,” the research proposal added.