(ORDO NEWS) — Tuberculosis is a terrible disease, the causative agent of which, according to some estimates, is infected with about a third of the world‘s population.
The causative agent of tuberculosis, Koch’s bacillus, effectively resists human immunity – and now Chinese scientists have found a way by which the bacterium avoids death in our body.
Worldwide, Koch’s bacillus ( Mycobacterium tuberculosis ), the causative agent of tuberculosis , is a leading infectious threat to public health.
Between two and three billion people are infected with this bacterium, and about one and a half million people die from tuberculosis every year.
Despite ongoing drug and vaccine development, Koch’s wand manages to successfully counter human immunity using many survival strategies to avoid being destroyed by the immune system.
The complex and dynamic relationship between the bacterium and the immune system determines the onset, course, and outcome of tuberculosis infection.
This time, a group of Chinese scientists has figured out another way Koch’s wand counters the immune system: it prevents an infected cell from self-destructing and triggering an inflammatory response that mobilizes immune cells.
The team, led by Professor Liu Cuihua of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Microbiology , studied the entire genome of Koch’s bacillus and all the proteins it secretes that can affect host cells.
Since Koch’s wand belongs to prokaryotes , and humans belong to eukaryotes, it is possible to distinguish between the bacteria’s own proteins and those that it uses to influence the host organism by some features of their composition and structure.
After selection, those proteins that were suspected of being able to act on the host cell were subjected to further analysis until one of the 201 proteins was isolated – protein tyrosine phosphatase PtpB.
It played a key role in blocking the self-destruction of the cell by inhibiting the action of certain cellular proteins.
Curiously, for PtpB to function properly, it must bind to ubiquitin , the “black label” that marks all proteins destined for destruction.
By blocking the work of ubiquitin, PtpB further weakens the host’s immune response and increases the chances of the bacterium to survive.
The discovery of a new mechanism for avoiding the immune response will allow scientists to develop new ways to treat tuberculosis by influencing not the pathogen itself, but the proteins of the body that it has chosen as its target.
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