Researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and other colleagues have received an $11 million, 5-year NIH grant to analyze why some people living with HIV in Africa, despite being at high risk for tuberculosis, evade infection with the bacterium that causes it, according to a press release.
“Living with both HIV and TB bacterial infection has been called the ‘duet of death,’ ” researcher W. Henry Boom, MD, director of the Tuberculosis Research Unit at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, said in the release. “Becoming infected with TB bacteria can be highly lethal to people living with HIV. Yet earlier my colleagues and I found that some HIV positive people not only don’t get sick or die from TB; they don’t even become infected in the first place. Our aim is to find out why.”
The researchers’ hypothesis, that genetic variations — possibly unconventional T cells — enable macrophages to resist or kill off Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection, will be tested under the grant. Boom and colleagues believe these pathways should be more readily identified in those with HIV.
As many as 12,500 people will be screened to identify approximately 60 HIV-positive resisters, whose DNA will be sequenced. Researchers theorize that the HIV-positive participants will have more of the unconventional T cells than will comparable numbers of HIV-negative resisters and others serving as controls.
“Identifying resistance mechanisms to [M. tuberculosis] infection in HIV-positive and HIV-negative people will provide new insights into our understanding of how TB operates within the body, point to novel approaches to TB vaccine and treatment, and identify biomarkers of resistance to and/or clearance of [M. tuberculosis] infection,” Boom said.
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