Tuberculosis experts address role of immune response

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Tuberculosis (TB) remains a major infectious disease global threat, with 8.7 million new cases and 1.4 million deaths worldwide reported in 2011 alone. In the United States, an estimated 10 million to 15 million people are infected. With multidrug-resistant forms of TB in dozens of countries, it is critical to understand the differences in how the human immune response differs from that found or predicted by animal studies, according to the authors of a state-of-the-art review paper on TB, published November 27, 2013 in Science Translational Medicine. The article (“TB or Not TB: That Is No Longer the Question”) was written by former HSPH Dean Barry R. Bloom, Harvard University Professor of Public Health and Joan and Jack Jacobson Professor of Public Health at Harvard School of Public Health, and Robert L. Modlin of the Division of Dermatology and Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics, University of California, Los Angeles.

“The recent emergence of multidrug-resistant and extensively drug-resistant TB in individuals in KwaZulu Natal and more than 70 other countries represents an alarming new threat not only to patients but to health care workers as well,” the authors wrote. “Thus, understanding the human immune mechanisms involved in protection and in pathogenesis has become a major and urgent research issue.”