Tuberculosis: On the path to prevention

December 1, 2009,

Why do some people who are exposed to tuberculosis not become infected or develop the disease? Dr. Erwin Schurr and his team at the Research Institute from the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC), in collaboration with Dr. Alexandre Alcais, from the Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale (INSERM) in Paris, has shed light on this question for the first time. Their results show that one or multiple genes might provide certain people with resistance to tuberculosis infection. Their findings are published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium (MTB). Two thirds of the world population are infected by this mycobacterium. Nevertheless, 20 per cent of people exposed to the mycobacterium are resistant to infection and can therefore, not develop the disease. " For our study, we were interested in this minority of people who live in high-exposure areas without becoming infected," said Dr. Schurr. "We tried to understand how these people develop resistance to TB infection."

Their findings show the existence of a chromosomal site, or a locus, that controls resistance to TB infection. Out of the 128 families studied, who come from an area in South Africa with high tuberculosis rates, after considering non genetic factors such as age, 20 per cent of individuals show natural resistance. "In other words, some people seem to have a particular genetic heritage that makes them naturally resistant to MTB infection," explained Dr. Alcais.

"The discovery of a genetic resistance factor is a major step forward in the fight against TB both locally and globally," said Dr. Schurr. This is a major development for people with HIV, for whom tuberculosis is a leading cause of mortality, as it is responsible for about 13% of AIDS-related deaths in the world. "Since they accelerate each other's progress, HIV and tuberculosis are partners in crime; if we can prevent infection, immune deficient patients will no longer be threatened by TB," stated Dr. Schurr.

"Right now, our challenge as researchers is to concentrate on identifying this genetic factor and its mechanisms that lead to resistance against TB infection," explained Dr. Alcais. The hope is that these genetic resistance factors can be used in the near future to prevent TB infection in the general population by stimulating the mechanism responsible for .

"If we can make everyone resistant to tuberculosis , this major public health problem could be wiped off the map," concluded Dr. Schurr.

Source: McGill University Health Centre (news : web)

Related Stories

Recommended for you

New approach could help curtail hospitalizations due to influenza infection

January 18, 2018
More than 700,000 Americans were hospitalized due to illnesses associated with the seasonal flu during the 2014-15 flu season, according to federal estimates. A radical new approach to vaccine development at UCLA may help ...

Flu may be spread just by breathing, new study shows; coughing and sneezing not required

January 18, 2018
It is easier to spread the influenza virus (flu) than previously thought, according to a new University of Maryland-led study released today. People commonly believe that they can catch the flu by exposure to droplets from ...

Certain flu virus mutations may compensate for fitness costs of other mutations

January 18, 2018
Seasonal flu viruses continually undergo mutations that help them evade the human immune system, but some of these mutations can reduce a virus's potency. According to new research published in PLOS Pathogens, certain mutations ...

Zika virus damages placenta, which may explain malformed babies

January 18, 2018
Though the Zika virus is widely known for a recent outbreak that caused children to be born with microencephaly, or having a small head, and other malformations, scientists have struggled to explain how the virus affects ...

New study validates clotting risk factors in chronic kidney disease

January 17, 2018
In late 2017, researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) discovered and published (Science Translational Medicine, (9) 417, Nov 2017) a potential treatment target to prevent chronic kidney disease (CKD) ...

Fresh approach to tuberculosis vaccine offers better protection

January 17, 2018
A unique platform that resulted in a promising HIV vaccine has also led to a new, highly effective vaccine against tuberculosis that is moving toward testing in humans.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.