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UA researchers identify new adherence factor, Pili, produced by tuberculosis

TUCSON, Ariz., -- Researchers at The University of Arizona College of Medicines Department of Immunobiology have discovered that the agent that causes tuberculosis (TB), Mycobacterium tuberculosis, produces a new type of virulence factor called Mycobacterium Tuberculosis Pili (MTP). Their findings suggest that MTP could be a promising, new TB-vaccine candidate.

The study, "Mycobacterium tuberculosis produces pili during human infection," published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Volume 104, March 5-9, 2007, could spur further scientific investigations on TB, which is the No. 1 cause of bacterial infectious disease in the world today. Worldwide, 3 million people die each year from tuberculosis and an estimated 1.2 billion are infected with the bacteria.

Virulence factors, such as MTP, are essential for causing disease in the host. Pili, also called fimbriae, are hair-like adhesive structures that facilitate the initial attachment and subsequent colonization of bacteria on human cells during bacterial infections.

Many other bacteria that cause human disease produce similar adhesive factors known as pili or fimbriae that play a critical role in allowing infections to develop in the patient. This is the first report of pili being produced by M. tuberculosis.

"Tuberculosis remains the most devastating bacterial cause of human mortality today. Despite improved diagnosis, surveillance, and treatment regimens, the incidence of TB increases annually. The ability to combat this deadly pathogen hinges on the dissection and understanding of the mechanisms of pathogenesis for M. tuberculosis," writes Christopher Alteri, PhD, a former UA graduate student who is principal author on this study.

This important work was part of his dissertation research at the UA under the direction of Richard L. Friedman, PhD, professor of immunobiology. Dr. Alteri now is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michig
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Contact: Katie Maass
kmaass@email.arizona.edu
520-626-7301
University of Arizona Health Sciences Center
5-Mar-2007


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