Mycobacterium tuberculosis is the causative agent of tuberculosis, a disease which is the world's leading cause of death due to a single infectious agent, and which is responsible for upto 3 million deaths annually. Despite the availability of the entire M. tuberculosis genome, virulence factors involved in the extrapulmonary dissemination of the disease have remained elusive.

In 12 July Nature Kevin Pethe and colleagues at the Institute Pastuer de Lille, France and the Laboratory of Mycobacterial Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, have shown that disruption of the gene encoding heparin-binding haemagglutinin (HBHA) has a pronounced impact on the binding of the mycobacterium to epithelial cells, but not macrophage-like cells (Nature 2001, 412:190-194).

Pethe et al. disrupted the hbhA locus of both M. tuberculosis 103 and the vaccine strain M. bovis BCG and administered the mutant and parental strains to BALB/c mice nasally. The infection was monitored...

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