Tailored TB therapy on the horizon

A new study shows that researchers may be able to tailor tuberculosis therapy towards a patient’s genetic predisposition for the disease.

Research published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology suggests that two frequently occurring mutations in an immune system gene called TLR1 are responsible for changes that may make a person less likely to resist the lung disease.

"The study may help to characterize individuals with increased susceptibility to tuberculosis, which might result in faster and more effective recognition and therapy of this disease," Dr. Lothar Rink, who was involved in the study and works with the Institute of Immunology at RWTH Aachen University Hospital in Aachen, Germany, said. "We hope that our results have implications for understanding the pathogenesis of mycobacterial infections associated with TLR1."

Gene sequencing and genotyping conducted during the study showed that healthy individuals that lacked TRL1 expression had traits that were strongly associated with increased susceptibility to TB. Further studies will still be needed to confirm that a TLR1-negative genotype demonstrates a hyporesponsiveness to mycobacterial infections or for tuberculosis vaccination.

"Antibiotics have been helpful in managing tuberculosis in the developed world, but unfortunately, these treatments are expensive, take a long time and are becoming less effective against drug-resistant strains,” Dr. John Wherry, the deputy editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, said. “Understanding why some people are more likely than others to become infected should help prioritize who should receive drug treatment in the developing world and lead to strategies for universal vaccines or therapeutics."