Researchers discover how TB defuses the body's immune system

Canadian researchers recently uncovered how tuberculosis manages to bypass and defuse the human body’s immune system.

TB, which is believed to kill two million people worldwide every year, is caused by the infectious bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which targets human immune cells as part of its strategy to remain invisible, thereby avoiding an immune response.

A team of scientists from the Immunity and Infection Research Center at Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute and the University of British Columbia recently determined that M. tuberculosis is able to produce a specific protein that gives it this ability. Until now, scientists only had a general idea of how the process worked.

The scientific community hopes that the results of the research, published in the journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could provide a way to develop to improved treatments for the disease.

"TB has been able to completely mislead our immune systems, convincing our body it isn't there, which is why it is such an effective killer," Dr. Yossef Av-Gay, a scientist on the project, said. "We discovered that the cells in charge of targeting and destroying invading bacteria are being fooled by a special protein that blocks the immune cells ability to recognize and destroy it."