Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization -
International Vaccine Centre

Mycobacterial Pathogenesis and Tuberculosis Research Program

Project Team: Jeffrey ChenAndrew PotterVolker GerdtsPhilip GriebelScott Napper, Z. Lim 

Members of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (e.g. M. bovis, M. tuberculosis) are bacterial pathogens that cause tuberculosis (TB). TB is a highly infectious disease that targets the lungs in a variety of mammals including humans.

The World Health Organization estimates M. tuberculosis killed 1.8 million and sickened 10.4 million people world-wide in 2015. TB can be cured by following a strict daily multi-drug regime for at least 6 months. Yet, due to the complexity and frequent side effects, many patients don’t adhere to treatment. This has resulted in multi- and extensive drug-resistant TB.

There is a live attenuated TB vaccine for humans called BCG that has been in use for almost 100 years. Although very safe and protective against TB in infants, efficacy decreases over time and it does not provide protection against TB in adults.

Bovine TB, caused by M. bovis, is endemic in developing and under-developed cattle-rearing countries. There are pockets of infection in wild-life in Canada, US, UK and New Zealand that are reservoirs of the disease. Confirmed cases can lead to significant economic losses for the agriculture sector, as was recently witnessed on the Canadian prairies. Overall, the disease causes significant financial losses (at ~ $ 3-billion/year) to the global cattle industry. M. bovis is also a major cause of zoonotic TB infections in humans. 

More effective drugs and vaccines, and diagnostics are needed to combat TB in humans and livestock.

To understand TB pathogenesis and transmission, our research group is using an integrated approach involving bacterial genetics, functional genomics and proteomics, cellular and molecular microbiology, chemical and structural biology, and animal models. The knowledge generated will be used to develop novel TB vaccines and drugs.