Washington, May 15 : Canadian scientists have gained important insights into the process whereby tuberculosis (TB) bacteria hide and multiply in the human body, and are now endeavouring to devise a way to block this mechanism.
Experts at the University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute say that their findings describe the missing link between a TB protein and its newly discovered counterpart protein in the human body's white blood cells (macrophages).
During a study, the researchers observed that a protein secreted by TB targets a protein in the macrophage, and thereby enables TB to hide and multiply within the macrophage.
Lead researcher Dr. Yossi Av-Gay says that the new findings suggest that therapies that block the activity of the TB protein in macrophages would allow the body to identify TB bacteria more easily, and thereby prevent the establishment of active and latent tuberculosis.
It may also lead to a new and more effective treatment for TB, adds Dr. Av-Gay.
"Once inside the human macrophage, TB acts as a Trojan Horse," says Dr. Horacio Bach, the primary author of the paper and research scientist with the Immunity and Infection Research Centre at the Vancouver Coastal Research Institute.
"TB multiplies inside the macrophage and when released attack the human body. By identifying this protein we are now able to expose the hiding bacteria, which will allow the macrophages to destroy them," adds Dr. Horacio Bach. Researchers at Dr. Av-Gay's laboratory are now planning to join hands with some pharmaceutical company so as to develop a way to block the TB protein.
"Excitingly, we have also been able to engineer a specific antibody that blocks this newly discovered TB protein. We are now looking to collaborate with the pharmaceutical industry to come up with a therapy that can be used to block this particular mechanism, which will be an important tool in weakening TB," says Av-Gay. The research article describing this discovery appears in the journal Cell Host and Microbe.