Tuesday, March 5, 2013

"Wrong" Immune Response Aids TB

News Brief by Enshu Chawla

Tuberculosis can be especially dangerous in some individuals due to an immune response which defends against viruses. Through the study of leprosy, researchers have linked a protein named interferon-gamma with immune responses related to bacterial infections. On the other hand, a protein named interferon-beta has been connected with immune responses to viruses. When interferon-beta is used by the immune system, patients exhibit much more severe effects of leprosy. In some ways, this could demonstrate why patients with viruses are more likely to be severely affected by bacterial infections. While interferon-beta is being used by the immune system, the bacteria causing the infection is unharmed. Moreover, the use of the interferon-beta protein may interfere with interferon-gamma. Professor Robert Moldin at the University of California, Los Angeles believes that altering interferon responses in the correct directions could be a possible solution. Due to living conditions, viruses, and lower levels of vitamin D, homeless people in shelters could be especially vulnerable to tuberculosis. With lower levels of vitamin D already leading to higher TB rates in the spring, Professor Ajit Lalvani of Imperial College London also speculates that viruses in the winter could lead to the severe effects of Tuberculosis building up in the spring.

Reference: "'Wrong' Immune Response Aids TB." BBC News. BBC, 28 Feb. 2013. Web. 4 Mar. 2013.
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