Remodeling the Immune System to Fight Tuberculosis
Published:30 Jan.2024    Source:University of Massachusetts Amherst
Tuberculosis, caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) kills upwards of 1.6 million people a year, making it one of the leading causes of death by an infectious agent worldwide -- and that number is only growing larger. How, exactly, Mtb evades the immune system isn't yet known, but a collaborative team of researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Seattle Children's Research Institute recently discovered something surprising: prior exposure to a genus of bacteria called Mycobacterium seems to remodel the first-line defenders in the body's immune system. Furthermore, how those cells are remodeled depends on exactly how the body is exposed. These results, published recently in PLOS Pathogens, suggest that a more integrated treatment approach that targets all aspects of the immune response could be a more effective strategy in the fight against tuberculosis.
 
"We breathe in thousands of liters of air every day," says Alissa Rothchild, assistant professor in the Veterinary and Animal Sciences Department at UMass Amherst and the paper's senior author.
 

"This essential process makes us incredibly vulnerable to inhalation of all sorts of potentially infectious pathogens that our immune systems have to respond to."