Mycobacterial Pathogenesis and Tuberculosis Research Program

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, Volker Gerdts, Beatrice Chung, Kylee Drever, Olivia Ihedioha, Ze Lim, Nirajan Niroula, Zoe Sereggela, Marlene Snider, Slim Zriba

Members of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis-complex (e.g. M. bovis, M. tuberculosis) are bacterial pathogens that 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 the biggest cause of human deaths due to a single infectious disease agent. The disease can be cured with a daily multi-drug treatment regime over at least 6 months. Unfortunately, due to the complexity of treatment and unpleasant 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 many cattle-rearing and developing regions of the world. There are pockets of infection in wild-life in many countries that are reservoirs of the disease. Confirmed cases can lead to significant economic losses to the global cattle industry. M. bovis is also a major cause of zoonotic TB infections in humans in developing parts of the world.  Thus, more effective drugs and vaccines, and diagnostics are needed to combat TB in humans and livestock.

To better understand TB pathogenesis and transmission, our research group takes an integrated approach that encompasses techniques in bacterial genetics, functional genomics and proteomics, cellular and molecular microbiology, chemical and structural biology, and animal modeling. The fundamental knowledge we generate is being used to develop novel TB vaccines and drugs.