In a new study published in Nature, scientists describe a new type of tuberculosis (TB) treatment that involves manipulating the body's response to TB bacteria rather than targeting the bacteria themselves, a concept called host-directed therapy. TB remains a major cause of disability and death worldwide as an estimated 8.6 million people fell ill with TB and 1.3 million people died from the disease in 2012, according to the World Health Organization. Although TB is curable, adherence to therapy is difficult as treatment requires taking antibiotic drugs for at least six months and sometimes up to two years. Poor adherence to medication and other factors have resulted in drug-resistant strains, and currently no effective TB vaccine exists.
To address the need for alternative interventions, scientists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, demonstrated proof-of-concept for a host-directed strategy to treat tuberculosis. They found that interleukin-1, a type of protein that regulates the body's immune response to infection, can help protect the body from TB infection. Their studies in cells and in mice and human patients infected with TB bacteria demonstrated that interleukin-1 induces a mediator, prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), that limits the production of type-I interferons, which are associated with increased TB disease severity.
KD Mayer-Barber et al. Host-directed therapy of tuberculosis based on interleukin-1 and type I interferon crosstalk. Nature DOI: 10.1038/nature13489 (2014).
NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., is available to comment on this research. Katrin Mayer-Barber, Ph.D., of NIAID's Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases and Alan Sher, Ph.D., chief of the laboratory, are co-authors on the letter and are also available for comment.
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