Mycobacterium tuberculosis H37Rv is the laboratory strain most widely used of the pathogen M. tuberculosis, an actinobacterium that carries many properties of its family to the extreme. It is not only interesting as one of the top three bacterial killers, with one third of the world having a dormant infection, but also as a model for other mycobacteria regarding the processes of slow growing, dormancy, host interaction, very long chain fatty acid biosynthesis, outer cell wall assembly, as well as sulfolipid, siderophore, and mycothiol biosynthesis.
M. tuberculosis produces mycolic and phthioceranic acids, the fatty acids with the longest carbon atom chains known. With up to 20 hours, it has the longest reproduction time in mycobacteria. In human macrophages in dormant state, it spends decades without reproduction. Consequently, to fully investigate these properties new methods will have to be invented.
While the treatment of an M. tuberculosis infection appears standard in Western countries, it still involves six months of a regime of three antibiotics that have been known for a long time. Not unexpectedly, acceptance and adherence to such a prolonged therapy are less than desired, and this contributes to spontaneous resistance from an already higher than average mutation rate of M. tuberculosis due to replication errors. Fueled by the HIV advance, strains of this bacterium are on the rise with resistance to all used antibiotics. For this reason, M. tuberculosis is the testbed of new antibiotics development, and it offers the opportunity of many unique and essential biochemical pathways. (Camus et al. 2002; Leibert and Rom, 2010)