Toothbrush tree found helpful against tuberculosis (TB)

Twig of toothbrush tree (Miswak)Researchers have found that a medicinal toothbrush tree can help us to fight against tuberculosis (TB) in a previously unknown mechanism.

This research has been published online in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

TB has more number of deaths than any other bacterial infection in the world. Bad news is that the rates of deaths are not only increasing but the resistant strains are also rising partly due to non-compliance with the required therapy. Many of the current drugs are about 50 years old and alternatives are required for longer and better therapy.

Researchers have found that the compound, diospyrin, binds to a novel site of the enzyme called DNA gyrase and inactivates the enzymes. “This novel mode of action could be exploited to develop new antibacterial agents,” researchers reported.

DNA gyrase enzyme is reported to be an essential enzyme for bacteria and plants whereas it is absent in animals and humans. This enzyme is found to be an effective and safe drug target for antibiotics.

“The way that diospyrin works helps to explain why it is effective against drug-sensitive and drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis,” Professor Tony Maxwell from the John Innes Centre, said in a statement.

Twigs of the tree are used traditionally and have an anti-bacterial effect for oral health. It is also popular to treat medical complaints such as bronchitis, pleurisy and venereal disease.

“Extracts from plants used in traditional medicine provide a source for novel compounds that may have antibacterial properties, which may then be developed as antibiotics,” said Professor Maxwell.

“This highlights the value of ethnobotany and the value of maintaining biodiversity to help us address global problems.”


Karkare, S., Chung, T., Collin, F., Mitchenall, L., McKay, A., Greive, S., Meyer, J., Lall, N., & Maxwell, A. (2012). The Naphthoquinone Diospyrin is an Inhibitor of DNA Gyrase with a Novel Mechanism of Action Journal of Biological Chemistry DOI: said in a statement

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