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Research gives better understanding of role of genes in TB immunity

5 March 2012

Research carried out by the University of Sussex and funded by the British Lung Foundation (BLF) has identified genetic variants that are associated with the immune response to the TB vaccination, BCG. It has led to the identification of genes that warrant further investigation. Future research of these genes could identify targets for new treatments for the often fatal disease, Tuberculosis.

The research looked at the genetic reasons why some people show a natural resistance when exposed to the bacteria that causes TB. With thousands of genes in human DNA, finding the ones relevant to fighting the bacterium is complex but the study has identified genes that may be involved in defending against the disease.

Melanie Newport, Professor in Infectious Diseases and Global Health, Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) said:

“This project has exploited the growing understanding of human genome sequence to contribute towards the identification of key pathways involved in protecting people against tuberculosis, using BCG vaccination of newborn infants as a model. We are now undertaking experiments to investigate the functional effects of these variants in the laboratory.”

Ian Jarrold, Research Manager at the British Lung Foundation, said:

“Other studies have focused on the development of new antibiotics but the TB causing bacterium can build resistance to these drugs. Using this research as a starting point, genetic information could be used to identify components of the immune system which may lead to more effective treatments.”


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