Infectious diseases have plagued humankind throughout history and have posed serious public health problems. Yet vaccines have eradicated smallpox and antibiotics have drastically decreased the mortality rate of many infectious agents. These remarkable successes in the control of infections came from knowing the causative agents of the diseases, followed by serendipitous discoveries of attenuated viruses and antibiotics. The discovery of DNA as genetic material and the understanding of how this information translates into specific phenotypes have changed the paradigm for developing new vaccines, drugs, and diagnostic tests. Knowledge of the mechanisms of immunity and mechanisms of action of drugs has led to new vaccines and new antimicrobial agents. The key to the acquisition of the knowledge of these mechanisms has been identifying the elemental causes (i.e., genes and their products) that mediate immunity and drug resistance. The identification of these genes is made possible by being able to transfer the genes or mutated forms of the genes into causative agents or surrogate hosts. Such an approach was limited in Mycobacterium tuberculosis by the difficulty of transferring genes or alleles into M. tuberculosis or a suitable surrogate mycobacterial host. The construction of shuttle phasmids-chimeric molecules that replicate in Escherichia coli as plasmids and in mycobacteria as mycobacteriophages-was instrumental in developing gene transfer systems for M. tuberculosis. This review will discuss M. tuberculosis genetic systems and their impact on tuberculosis research.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Publication status||Published - Jan 1 2014|
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)
- Microbiology (medical)
- Cell Biology
- Infectious Diseases