TB may use bone marrow stem cells to suppress the immune system

A recent study led by New Delhi-based scientist Gobardhan Das has found that the tuberculosis bacteria may use bone marrow stem cells to hide in the lungs to suppress the immune system and remain alive.

According to the findings, TB recruits these cells - called mesenchymal stem cells - to the lungs, where they produce nitric oxide. This secreted chemical then reduces the number of white blood cells, also known as T-cells. The findings were released Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Bloomberg reports.

These findings “reveal a key role of mesenchymal stem cells” in the ability of TB to evade the immune system and it “(identifies) these cells as unique targets for therapeutic intervention in tuberculosis,” the study said, according to Bloomberg.

Das, the head researcher on the study, works for the International Center for Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology, which is headquartered in Trieste, Italy.

Close to one third of the population of the world is infected with the bacteria that can cause TB, according to the World Health Organization. The disease has become increasingly difficult to treat as drug-resistant strains have emerged. Last year, TB led to 1.7 million deaths. The study suggests that mesenchymal stem cells may be the next target for future treatments of TB.