Global Health Press
Discovery opens way for designing TB shots

Discovery opens way for designing TB shots

Specialised immune cells, discovered by Australian researchers, could become instrumental in designing an anti-tuberculosis (TB) vaccine, says a study.

The joint study by the Australian universities of Melbourne and Monash has revealed that the highly abundant mucosal associated invariant T cells (MAIT cells), which recognise products of vitamin B synthesis from bacteria and yeast, help activate the immune system.

The research revealed how by-products of bacterial vitamin synthesis, including some derived from folic acid or vitamin B9 and riboflavin or vitamin B2, could be captured by the immune receptor MR1, thus fine-tuning the activity of MAIT cells, the journal Nature reports.

“Humans are unable to make vitamin B and obtain it mostly from diet. Because bacteria can synthesise vitamin B, our immune system uses this as a point of difference to recognise infection,” said Lars Kjer-Nielsen from the University of Melbourne, who led the study, according to a Melbourne statement.

“Given the relative abundance of the MAIT cells lining mucosal and other surfaces, such as the intestine, the mouth and lungs, it is quite probable that they play a protective role in many infections from thrush to tuberculosis.

“This is a significant discovery that unravels the long sought target of MAIT cells and their role in immunity to infection,” Kjer-Nielsen added.

James McCluskey, professor of microbiology and immunology at Melbourne, said the discovery opened up opportunities for vaccine development and other potential therapeutics.

“This is a major breakthrough in which Australian researchers have beaten many strong research teams around the world, becoming the first to unlock the mystery of what drives a key component of our immune system,” he said.

Source: Times of India