New Insights into TB
TUBERCULOSIS (TB), one of the world’s deadliest diseases, is rampant in areas of the world with a high incidence of poverty, malnutrition, and poor general health. New research led by Padmini Salgame, PhD, professor and director of the Graduate Medical Research Program at NJMS, established a connection between TB and infection by parasitic worms, a frequent occurrence in much of the world. William C. Gause, PhD, professor and senior associate dean of research at NJMS, collaborated in the study, which appears in the Journal of Experimental Medicine. The research indicates that parasitic worm infections thwart the body’s natural defense against Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb).
Macrophages, large white blood cells that form a first line of defense against infection, appear to have a reduced capacity to destroy these bacteria when mice are infected with a lung dwelling parasite prior to Mtb infection. The team successfully identified an alternatively activated state of macrophages, due to the prior parasite infection, as the reason for the apparent reduction in the body’s ability to fight Mtb, suggesting that these parasites may be a risk factor for the progression from TB infection to the development of disease. There is a possibility that prior parasite infection may be one explanation why vaccines against TB show such variability in effectiveness. The research suggests that unique approaches to therapy may be warranted in patients who present with histories of parasitic worm infections in addition to TB.