Mycobacterial pathogenesis and tuberculosis vaccine and drug development

Mycobacteria grown in standard culture media examined by scanning electron microscopy. Provided by Jeff Chen (VIDO-InterVac) and Eiko Kawamura (WCVM)

Project Team: Jeffrey Chen, Slim Zriba, Petronillah Manhondo, Nirajan Niroula, Marlene Snider, Ze Long Lim

Members of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis-complex (e.g., M. bovisM. tuberculosis) cause tuberculosis (TB)—a highly infectious disease that primarily affects the lungs in a variety of mammals including humans.

According to the World Health Organization, TB is second leading cause of human deaths by an infectious disease organism. The disease can be cured with a daily multi-drug treatment regime over a period of at least 6 months. Unfortunately, due to the complexity of treatment and unpleasant side effects, many patients do not adhere to treatment. This has resulted in the emergence of multi- and extensive drug-resistant TB. There is a live attenuated TB vaccine for humans, bacillus Calmette-Guerin or BCG, that has been in use for over 100 years. Although it is very safe and protective against TB in infants, efficacy decreases over time, and does not provide protection against TB in adults.

Bovine TB, caused by M. bovis, is endemic in many cattle-rearing and developing regions of the world, and a major cause of zoonotic TB in humans. There are pockets of infection in wildlife in many countries that are reservoirs of the disease. Bovine TB is also a reportable disease and confirmed cases can lead to significant economic losses.

More effective drugs, vaccines, and diagnostic tools, informed by a better understanding of TB pathogenesis and transmission, are needed to combat TB in humans and livestock. Our research group takes an integrated approach using cutting-edge techniques in bacterial genetics, functional genomics and proteomics, cellular and molecular microbiology, chemical and structural biology, and animal modeling to achieve these goals. The fundamental knowledge we generate from our research are being used to develop novel TB vaccines and drugs.

Read more: Fighting Bovine Tuberculosis