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TB treatment for the elderly likely requires a boost to immune response
Date:6/9/2008

COLUMBUS, Ohio Manipulating the immune system in elderly people appears to be the most likely way to help older patients wage an effective battle against tuberculosis, a new study suggests.

Mathematical modeling of how mice respond to TB infection suggests that potential therapy options for elderly TB patients could either increase their white blood cell count or enhance infected cells' interaction with their immune system.

Simulations of TB infection in an old mouse showed that increasing the number of infection-fighting white blood cells, called CD4 T cells, could be particularly effective at bolstering the mouse's immune response, which naturally slows with aging. Older humans have similar delays in their immune response, meaning that they have a much more difficult time controlling TB than do younger people with an active infection.

The math modeling also suggested that making changes to macrophages, cells that essentially eat infecting bacteria, could enhance those cells' interactions with other warriors in the immune system, reducing the concentration of bacteria in the lungs associated with TB infection.

Both findings suggest potential strategies for development of vaccines or treatments specifically for elderly TB patients, said Joanne Turner, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of internal medicine at Ohio State University.

"This modeling is giving us clues as to what would help an older person control infection," Turner said. "In thinking about therapies, if we find a way to make older people have a better T-cell response, such as with vaccination, or by giving them a post-exposure therapy in the lung that would activate the macrophage better, either way they should be able to control infection more effectively."

The research appears in a recent issue of the journal Experimental Gerontology.

About 2 billion people worldwide are thought to be infected wit
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Contact: Joanne Turner
joanne.turner@osumc.edu
614-292-6724
Ohio State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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