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Re-programming innate immune cells to fight tuberculosis

Canadian researchers’ innovative work promises to make vaccines more effective against tuberculosis and other infectious diseases like the flu

Jan 11, 2018

MONTREAL – Tuberculosis (TB), an infectious disease which attacks the lungs, claims someone’s life every 20 seconds and 1.5 million lives worldwide every year. A cure has eluded scientists for more than a century but, now, a Montreal team of researchers may have discovered a new weapon to combat this global killer. The team is re-programing - or ‘training’ - immune cells to kill TB. These groundbreaking findings are published online today in the journal Cell.

“The current available BCG-vaccine is not effective. The current antibiotic treatments are toxic and have resulted in generating TB-resistance strains. The antibiotics era is approaching its end; we are in serious trouble with this bug if we don’t investigate an alternative approach,” says lead corresponding author Dr. Maziar Divangahi, a pulmonary immunologist and expert in immunity to TB at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC).

Working with Université de Montréal geneticist Dr. Luis Barreiro and his team at the UdeM-affiliated CHU Sainte-Justine Research Centre, the researchers were able to dissect and identify the genomic pathways involved in triggering an enhanced innate immune response against TB. Read more