Aids Weekly Plus
Professor Tony Maxwell, a researcher at the John Innes Centre, reported that diospyrin, a compound from the South African toothbrush tree, is effective in treating drug-sensitive and drug-resistant TB. Maxwell stated that diospyrin binds to an enzyme known as DNA gyrase and inactivates the enzyme, which is essential for bacteria.
Traditional medicine has used the toothbrush tree’s antibiotic properties to treat bronchitis, pleurisy, and STDs. People also use the tree’s twigs as toothbrushes.
Most antibiotics come from natural sources like the soil bacteria Streptomyces, but naturally occurring compounds in plants are another potential source for new antibiotics. It may be possible to learn of other cures from the field of ethnobotany, according to Maxwell, which underscores the importance of preserving biodiversity.
[Editor's Note: The full report, “The Naphthoquinone Diospyrin is an Inhibitor of DNA Gyrase with a Novel Mechanism of Action,” was published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry and is available at www.jbc.org/cgi/doi/10.1074/jbc.M112.419069].