Eureka! Researchers Find a New Drug Target for Tuberculosis

By CIOReview | Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Researchers aim to target group 3 innate lymphoid cells to enhance the immune system against the tuberculosis bacteria before it inhabits the body.

FREMONT, CA – There is little error in referring to Tuberculosis (TB) as the harbinger of death, as it stands ninth in the global cause of death index, more so than any other infectious disease. Even if the drug resistance of TB does not render the treatment almost ineffective, the toxicity of the drugs will slowly but surely deteriorate the internal organs. Hence, it has become imperative to develop new, safer drugs or enhance the existing medications for treating TB.

The first step toward this end has been taken by a team of researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis and Africa Health Research Institute, South Africa. The team began the screening of chemical compounds to evaluate their ability to strengthen the activity of ILC3 and augment the immune response to the disease.

According to the researchers, group 3 innate lymphoid cells (ILC3) initiate the immune response immediately after infection from Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb). The immune response to the bacteria depends on the initial reaction of these cells. This discovery will potentially pave a new path for TB control.

The researchers aim to target the ILC3 to enhance the immune system against the TB bacteria before it inhabits the body. The studies conducted on mice as well as humans bolstered the status of ILC3 as the master immune cell in the case of TB treatment. The researchers found the ILC3 in the lungs after five days of infection, deploying chemical compounds to activate the immune response.

The mice with a deficiency of ILC3 showed slower immune reactions to the infection. The immune system showed enhanced activity after the researchers introduced ILC3 into the mice. After antibiotic treatment, ILC3 cells accumulated in the bloodstream since they no longer needed to control the immune response.

The ILC3 are from an innate branch of immune cells which have been considered to possess no memory. According to the researchers, it is still to be determined whether the ILCs in the lungs can be trained and if they can retain the training memory. If the cells are prepared and primed to augment the immune response in the lungs, it will pave the way for a more effective vaccine for TB.