Finalist of the category:
Outstanding individual contributor to Slovak science

Katarína Mikušová

Tuberculosis research

By clarifying one specific process in building the cell wall of mycobacteria, we have contributed to understanding how a new antitubercular drug works.

Tuberculosis is the infectious disease that has claimed the most lives in human history. The research of its causative agent, the bacillus Mycobacterium tuberculosis, is carried out by doc. RNDr. Katarina Mikusova, DrSc. at the Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Comenius University in Bratislava. Throughout her long career she has also contributed to the development of a new drug against tuberculosis.

When Katarína Mikušová first started to get acquainted with the world of mycobacteria in 1992, she came across a well-written article on the structure of the mycobacterial cell wall. There were a number of questions in the part describing its construction, which posed an enticing challenge for the newly graduated biochemist. Over the last 30 years, however, many of these issues have been resolved. "And I was lucky enough to be able to contribute to this discovery," says biochemist Katarína Mikušová.

She accidentally got into the study of mycobacteria. In the early 1990s, her husband accepted an offer to work scientifically in the United States, so the young family went there. A half a year later she began to look for work in her own field. She got into a scientific group dealing with mycobacteria. This topic had grown on her so much that she did not let go of it even after they returned to Slovakia after more than three years.

Katarína Mikušová continued her research on mycobacteria, especially on the bacillus Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which causes tuberculosis, at the Faculty of Natural Sciences, Comenius University in Bratislava. She studied at the Department of Biochemistry of this faculty and even worked there before leaving for the USA. Gradually, she managed to build a specialized laboratory there. With the help of her student and later colleague Jana Korduláková, they made it well-known abroad, and in 2006 they were invited to an international consortium focused on the development of drugs against tuberculosis.

Developing anti-tubercular drugs is not easy at all. Due to the aforementioned cell wall, these bacteria are extremely resistant to the host's immune system as well as to the effectiveness of common antibiotics. "This cell coat of mycobacteria is also known as their Achilles' heel, because two of the four anti-tuberculosis drugs that are used as basic treatment of tuberculosis interfere with the processes of building the cell wall of the pathogen. " the scientist explains. Her big dream is to contribute to shortening and streamlining the treatment of tuberculosis, which now lasts half a year and is mentally and physically demanding for patients.

Katarína Mikušová likes to relax from work by going swimming or skiing, the activities she considers not only sports but also an aesthetic experience. She is happy to read a good book and devotes herself to her family, especially her six-year-old granddaughter. In recent months, her focus has been a dog she and her husband got.