A highly contagious bacterial infection that primarily affects the lungs, tuberculosis is responsible for two million deaths each year and affects an estimated 16 million people around the world.
Tuberculosis is a huge killer internationally, says study co-author Norman L. Letvin, M.D., Chief of Viral Pathogenesis at BIDMC and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Worldwide, the major targets for vaccine development are the HIV virus, tuberculosis and malaria. Anything that moves us even a little closer to these vaccines is very important.
The existing TB vaccine created in 1908 and first used in 1921 has proven successful in protecting children from the disease, but has had varied effectiveness in adults.
In the new study, lead author Zheng Chen, M.D., of the BIDMC Tuberculosis Research Unit and colleagues used macaque monkeys to study the nature of the immune responses of gamma delta T cells, a group of white blood cells that were first identified several years ago, and make up a significant component of the body's immune system.
When battling infectious agents including viruses, bacteria, fungi and all other pathogens the immune system relies on two separate types of immune responses: innate immunity and acquired immunity. T cells with innate immunity, including the gamma delta T cells, function as the immune system's first line of defense against foreign mi
Contact: Bonnie Prescott
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center