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Genetically Crippling Tuberculosis

Health Newsfeed # 1363

Bacteria can be incredibly tricky, finding creative new ways to invade and hide within the body.

The bacterial strain that causes tuberculosis – the leading infectious disease killer in the world – survives by invading white blood cells. The bacteria produce an enzyme that allows them to change diet and feed off of waste products within the cell. They can live this way for years, evading the body’s attempts to get rid of them and causing chronic TB infections. Researchers in the midwest have genetically altered the TB bacteria in mice, removing their ability to produce the life sustaining enzyme. Johns Hopkins tuberculosis expert Dr. William Bishai explains the implications.

A strain crippled with this gene and potentially with others might grow for a short time, stimulate immunity in the person, but then be cleared. And that’s a very useful attribute in a vaccine that could really stimulate better vaccine development for TB. :14

The idea is to take away the bacteria’s talent for hiding and feeding within white blood cells, thus exposing them to the lethal fury of the immune system.

At the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, I'm Tom Haederle reporting.

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