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Elderly might not benefit from TB vaccines in development
Date:9/20/2010

s, but an estimated one in 10 will develop active disease characterized by a chronic cough and chest pain. The elderly are considered highly susceptible to both reactivation of latent infection and newly acquired infections, especially in long-term care facilities. Many older patients cannot tolerate the months-long antibiotic regimen required to treat active TB.

Despite that higher infection susceptibility, researchers still do not know exactly what happens during aging that either weakens the immune response or otherwise reduces elderly people's ability to fight infection.

Turner and colleagues focused this work on the molecule known as TLR-2, or toll-like receptor-2. It is among the receptors located on the surface of macrophages, which are the first cells in the lungs to see Mycobacterium tuberculosis at the point of infection.

The job of TLR-2 and at least two other known receptors is to recognize distinctive characteristics of dangerous pathogens and then send out signals to activate other players in the immune system.

Previous research has shown that TLR-2 has a prominent role in macrophages' ability to see and absorb the TB pathogen in young mice and humans hence, vaccines that boost TLR-2 would be expected to reduce the chances that the infection can get past this first line of the body's defense.

But in this more recent study, Turner and colleagues found that the macrophages in old mice respond as they are supposed to when Mycobacterium tuberculosis invades the lungs but they do so without the help of the TLR-2 receptor.

First, the researchers showed that the immune function of old and young mice were comparable in response to infection. The receptors on cell surfaces were present at similar levels and those cells made the same proteins needed for infection control.

To test the TLR-2 function in particular, the researchers observed cells in mice genetically modified to be lacki
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Contact: Joanne Turner
joanne.turner@osumc.edu
614-292-6724
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert

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