Researchers discover new mechanism of infection for TB

Infectious diseases

3 Aug 2016

Mycrobacterium tuberculosis infects the body through a previously unknown route of entry, new research suggests.

The authors of the mouse study published in Cell Reports say their findings could have significant implications for the development of new therapies to prevent tuberculosis infection.

The current model of disease is that when Mtb bacteria are inhaled, they reach the alveolus – and then are ingested by a macrophage.

However the research team led by Dr Michael Shiloh, an Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and Microbiology at UT Southwestern,  discovered that once the Mycrobacterium tuberculosis bacterium was inhaled, they could enter the body directly through microfold cell (M-cells) cells lining the airway tissue and then travel to the lymph nodes.

“This is a key finding that suggests disease onset outside of alveolar macrophages is not only possible, but also important in the pathogenesis of tuberculosis infection,” Dr Shiloh said.

The discovery  also helps to explain an ancient diseases called scrofula, where tuberculosis infection rarely appears in the lung but instead caused disease in the lymph nodes of the neck, he added.

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