Co-infection of TB and parasitic worms may complicate treatment

Research conducted at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of the New Jersey Medical School has established that the co-infection of tuberculosis and parasitic worms can complicate TB treatment.
The study found that parasitic worm infections thwart the body's natural defenses against Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of TB. Macrophages, the large white blood cells that attack foreign objects in the body, including infections, appear to have a reduced capacity to destroy these bacteria when mice are infected with a lung dwelling parasite prior to Mtb infection.
Padmini Salgame, a professor and director of the school's Graduate Medical Research Program, led the study in collaboration with William C. Gause, a professor and senior associate dean of research at the school,. The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.
The team found that the prior parasite infection was the reason for the body's reduction in ability to fight Mtb. The findings are significant as they suggest these parasites might be a risk factor for the progression from infection to the development of TB disease, since these co-infections occur in people in regions of the world that are co-endemic for these parasites and TB. This also raises the possibility that prior parasite infection may be one explanation why TB vaccines show such variability in effectiveness.
The authors suggest that unique approaches to therapy may be warranted in patients who present with histories of parasitic worm infections in addition to TB.