SEP 14, 2019 03:20 PM PDT

Why TB and HIV Occur Together So Often

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Tuberculosis (TB) is among the world’s leading causes of death and is the primary cause of death in people who are HIV-positive. Among the 1.6 million people that died from TB in 2017, around 300,000 of them were HIV-positive, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute have now learned more about why the two diseases are worse when they happen at once. This work, which has been reported in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, may help in the development of better treatments for those who are at risk.

Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) under a microscope. / Credit: Texas Biomedical Research Institute

"We were a little surprised at the extent of clarity in our data," noted Professor and Southwest National Primate Research Center Director Deepak Kaushal. "I am actually very excited to move forward trying different treatment approaches on co-infected monkeys."

TB is a bacterial infection caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis and can spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes and another person breathes that air. TB is more likely to happen in people with weak immune systems, like HIV patients; specifically, HIV targets a type of immune cell called CD4+ cells. This new work indicates that other factors are also at work.

In this study, the scientists used a rhesus macaque model of HIV to show that chronic immune activation in the lung encourages or even causes the progression of the disease. When the body is fighting tough pathogens, immune pathways can produce too many inflammatory molecules like cytokines and chemokines.

"It's like all the taps and faucets in your house are turned on full blast all the time," explained Kaushal. "You are going to lose a lot of water. With this dysfunction, all cytokines ad chemokines are constantly being produced to the highest levels. This dysregulates the body's ability to fight off other infections."

Chronic immune activation happens even when people are controlling their HIV infection with antiretrovirals. Kaushal noted that "we need to develop approaches to target chronic immune activation," perhaps with a drug that would be an additional therapy along with ART.

Learn more about HIV as an inflammatory disorder from the video.

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via Texas Biomedical Research Institute, Journal of Clinical Investigation

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
OCT 21, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
OCT 21, 2019
Modified CRISPR Can Manipulate Gene Activity in Neurons
There are challenges to working with nerve cells in the lab, which can create research bottlenecks in the study of neurological disease....
OCT 21, 2019
Cell & Molecular Biology
OCT 21, 2019
Investigating the Formation of Membrane-less Organelles
The cytoplasm of cells is about 80% water, but is full of a molecular mixture of stuff that was once thought to be disorganized and random....
OCT 21, 2019
Cell & Molecular Biology
OCT 21, 2019
Scientists Reveal how Pancreatic Cancer Evades Chemotherapy
Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania reveal answers to help better treat pancreatic cancer in the future....
OCT 21, 2019
Immunology
OCT 21, 2019
Your Immune Response Varies from AM to PM
“My biological clock is ticking.” We’ve heard people say this phrase - maybe even said it ourselves - but what do we mean exactly? Often...
OCT 21, 2019
Cell & Molecular Biology
OCT 21, 2019
Visualizing Gene Expression in an Organism with an Ultrasound
Understanding how and when and why certain genes are or are not active is a critical aspect of biomedical research....
OCT 21, 2019
Neuroscience
OCT 21, 2019
Sea Slugs Reveal a Link Between Food Comas and Memory
A recent study suggests that there may be a connection between food comas feeling tired after eating and long-term memory formation. This f...
Loading Comments...