Tuberculosis is a global infection far from being eradicated. It currently infects more than 1,400 people per year in Australia. The deadliest form and expensive to treat is antibiotic resistant tuberculosis—costing about $250,000 to treat a single case.
Now, researchers at the Centenary Institute have been working on new treatments for tuberculosis by seeking to increase the effectiveness of the immune system. In particular, they found a brand new target for the treatment of drug-resistant tuberculosis. Through their understanding that the tuberculosis bacterium alters platelets from the body's blood clotting system to weaken the immune systems—scientists were able to use a zebrafish model of tuberculosis to observe the build-up of clots and activation of platelets on infected regions, using fluorescent microscopy.
"The zebrafish gives us literal insight into disease processes by watching cells interacting in real time,” says senior author and head of the Centenary's Immune-Vascular Interactions laboratory, Dr. Stefan Oehlers.
Green platelets sticking to red blood vessels next to sites of infection by blue bacteria. Pathogenic platelets are the green cells that stick next to the bacteria for a few minutes.
According to the study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, the platelets were found to be tricked by the infection by getting in to the way of the body's defense system. Therefore, they treated the sites of infection with anti-platelet drugs, including the most common form of aspirin. The aspirin was found to prevent the altercations of platelets and allowed the body to control the infection better.
"This is the first time that platelets have been found to worsen tuberculosis in an animal model. It opens up the possibility that anti-platelet drugs could be used to help the immune system fight off drug resistant TB,” says Dr. Elinor Hortle, lead author of the paper. "Our study provides more crucial evidence that widely available aspirin could be used to treat patients with severe tuberculosis infection and save lives.”
Source: Science Daily