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Vancouver researchers discover missing link between TB bacteria and humans
Date:5/14/2008

Researchers at the University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute have discovered how tuberculosis (TB) bacteria hide and multiply in the human body and are working toward a treatment to block this mechanism of infection.

This discovery, published today in the journal Cell Host and Microbe, describes the missing link between a TB protein and its newly discovered counterpart protein in the human bodys white blood cells (macrophages).

TB causes disease by infecting the bodys macrophages. Normally, macrophages engulf bacteria and then release powerful digestive enzymes that destroy the bacteria. The researchers found that a protein secreted by TB targets a protein in the macrophage. In doing so, TB disrupts this process, allowing it to hide and multiply within the macrophage.

The research, lead by Dr. Yossi Av-Gay, research scientist with the Immunity and Infection Research Centre at the Vancouver Coastal Research Institute and associate professor with UBCs Faculty of Medicine, suggests that therapies that block the activity of the TB protein in macrophages would allow the body to identify TB bacteria more easily. This would prevent the establishment of active and latent tuberculosis and will lead to a new and more effective treatment for TB.

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.

The Av-Gay lab has already taken the next step.

Excitingly, we have also been able to engineer a specific antibody that blocks this newly discovered TB protein, says Av-Gay. We are now looking to collaborate wi
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Contact: Catherine Loiacono
catherine.loiacono@ubc.ca
604-822-2644
University of British Columbia
Source:Eurekalert

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