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There was a time when tuberculosis was considered no less than a cancer. However, with the advancement of medical technology, tuberculosis (TB) is like any other preventable and treatable disease now.
Making new strides in the treatment for TB, scientists have come up with a new effective vaccine against tuberculosis.
Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease that is caused by a bacterium - Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), transmitted by people infected with pulmonary (lung) TB who release Mtb into the air through coughing, sneezing or spitting.
According to the World Health Organization, there were about 9 million estimated new cases in 2013 and 1.5 million deaths. Over 90% of TB cases occur in low and middle income countries.
The airborne disease is becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics, but despite 20 years of intense global efforts no effective vaccine has been developed, they said.
Recent efforts have focused on the response of conventional human T cells - a type of white blood cell essential to fighting off infection - to protein fragments found in Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), the bacteria that causes TB.
In the latest effort, researchers from the Universities of Southampton and Bangor in the UK, have shown that certain lipids - fatty substances essential to cell structure that are found in abundance in Mtb - could trigger an immune response from other, 'unconventional' types of T cells.
During the course of the study, the researchers showed that a group of lipids called mycolic acids, a major component of the Mtb cellular envelope could be key to determining an immune response.
The study further showed that the geometry, chemical make-up and movement of the mycolic acids' long lipid 'tails' when they are embedded in a type of human protein called CD1b determines the response of the body's unconventional T cells.
"This is an exciting discovery with potential therapeutic implications for TB patients. We have shown that synthetic lipids related to those in the cell wall of Mtb are selectively targeted by T-cells," said Salah Mansour, from the University of Southampton.
"Our findings could help drive advances in vaccine development through the intelligent design of the lipid components of future TB vaccines," said Mansour.
"This is a very exciting result of a collaboration between organic chemists and immunologists which could provide a real opportunity for improved protection against TB," Juma'a Al Dulayymi, from Bangor University added.
The study was recently published in the journal PNAS.
(With Agency Inputs)