Tuberculosis is a serious infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine is the current preventive means of disease outbreak but it only offers protection in the first years of life. To combat the threat and extend tuberculosis prevention in adults, there is an urgent need for development of new vaccines. Towards this end, the EU-funded project 'Innate and adaptive immunity in clinical and experimental mycobacterial infection in neonates and infants' (Neotim) looked at how neonates respond to M. tuberculosis infection. In particular, project partners studied the immune responses against mycobacterial infection in animal models with an emphasis on certain types of immune cells, namely T lymphocytes and dendritic cells. These cells are among the white blood cells of the immune system which are triggered following infection with M. tuberculosis. Neotim members worked to experimentally dissect the human immune responses against the mycobacterium. To accomplish that, they used 'humanised' mice which had been reconstituted with human immune cells. These were compared with immune responses in humans in the corresponding age groups. The project also succeeded in testing a new promising vaccine based on a bacterial adhesion protein known as heparin-binding haemagglutinin (HBHA). Researchers collected clinical and genetic data from neonates with enhanced vulnerability to infection. These were investigated further to discover novel mycobacterial susceptibility genes which could be used in the future to calculate infection risk assessment. Overall, the Neotim project worked to uncover and learn from the immune responses against M. tuberculosis during infancy. Coupled with the discovery of new susceptibility genes and development of potential new vaccines, findings will aid in preventing resurgence of the life-threatening disease of tuberculosis.
Innate and adaptive immunity in clinical and experimental mycobacterial infection in neonates and infants
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30 June 2020