Case Western Reserve to head international research of TB-resistant individuals
These TB-resistant people do not contract TB even in the most extreme circumstances: close proximity with highly contagious TB patients for extended periods of time. The researchers' goal is to create a better method of treating TB and ultimately use the cause of these people’s immunity to eliminate the disease.
"By focusing on these (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) MTB-resisters, there is the potential to figure out what it is about their natural immunity that keeps them from acquiring and/or resisting MTB infection and to replicate this response with a vaccine to prevent MTB infection," Case Western Reserve associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics Catherine Stein said. "As far as genetic contributions, there are ways to force genes to take action, and it may be possible to turn those genes on or off to resist MTB. It may be as simple as finding genes that enhance a person's natural immunity."
After studying environmental and biological factors, the scientists will study genetic and immunologic factors such as the individuals’ phenotypes, which are the observable characteristics of the genes of a person with or without infections. The study will also include the subjects’ genetic expression, which is the content and process the gene offers to create protein molecules.
"Science has made extraordinary gains in the battle against TB, but much more progress is needed," Stein said. "Existing methods have not proven adequate in developing nations — in particular in sub-Saharan Africa, where it is a major health concern."
This research will be established on the foundation of over 10 years of studies in Uganda by Case Western Reserve, Makerere University, the University of Washington and Mulago Hospital.