This research aims demonstrate the use of human samples and cells to screen for genetic factors which influence tuberculosis infection and immunity, potentially reducing reliance on animal models of infection.
Tuberculosis (TB) kills two million people annually, a problem compounded by rising levels of multi-drug resistant TB and the fact that BCG, the TB vaccine, does not protect against TB in countries where prevalence of the infection is high. The development of therapeutics currently relies extensively on the use of animals.
Genetics are important to a person’s susceptibility to TB, and identifying the genes involved could lead to new targets for treatments and vaccines. However, such data derived from animals do not always extrapolate accurately to humans.
This study uses vaccination responses in infants, as they are more likely to have never been exposed to TB, to identify the relevant genes involved in infection. This will avoid animal use and could be adapted to study human interactions with other pathogens for which vaccines are, or will be, given in early life.
Research details and methods
Five candidate genes have been identified previously that encode key molecules known to play a role in regulating the production of a critical cytokine needed for TB immunity, interferon-gamma (IFNγ). These genes will be sequenced in existing samples from 30 BCG-vaccinated infants to identify variations which could potentially have a functional impact.
The variants will be used to identify which molecules are linked to a poor inflammatory response to TB and how they control inflammation. This is an important first step for identifying new methods of treatment.
Newport MJ (2015). The genetic regulation of infant immune responses to vaccination. Frontiers in Immunology 6:18. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2015.00018
Principal investigatorProfessor Melanie Newport
InstitutionBrighton and Sussex Medical School
Co-InvestigatorDr Sandra Sacre
Dr Simon Waddell
Dr Chris Finan