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Tuberculosis: The bacillus takes refuge in adipose cells

p>Neyrolles' team first demonstrated, in cell and tissue cultures, that adipose cells served as a reservoir for Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and that this protected the bacillus against isoniazid. They then investigated whether the pathogen was present in adipose cells in humans. They did this by testing for traces of the genetic structure of the bacillus in samples from people considered not to be infected. Analyses were carried out on samples from deceased subjects from Mexico, where tuberculosis is endemic, and from Parisian districts reporting very few cases of tuberculosis.

The bacterium was detected in the adipose tissue of about a quarter of these people, all of whom were unaware they were infected, in both Mexico and France. These results suggest that the bacillus responsible for tuberculosis can remain protected in the adipose tissue of the body in the absence of any sign of disease.

This work has important implications for the prevention of this disease. It helps to explain how, many years after first testing positive for tuberculosis, people with no trace of the microbe in the lungs may develop some form of tuberculosis attacking the lungs, bones or genitals. It also suggests that isoniazid treatment, prescribed to the close friends and family of patients as a preventative measure, may in some cases not provide sufficient protection against the disease. This is particularly important for immunocompromised patients and for people with AIDS, for whom a secondary infection with tuberculosis bacillus may have very serious consequences.

This work highlights the importance of the search for new targeted therapeutic weapons, such as new antibiotics, which must be able to reach the dormant bacillus that has been hiding in adipose cells without our knowing it.


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Source:Public Library of Science


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