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Professor’s Research Supports Potential for Adjunctive Immune Modulation to Shorten Treatment of Pulmonary TB

Tuberculosis (TB) is today a pandemic that rivals any other disease. In 1991, the World Health Organization recognized the revival of TB as a global health problem. Although the death rate has fallen significantly since then, 1.7 million people died from TB in 2009, nearly 4,700 deaths a day.

Tuberculosis is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. After infection the major clinical symptoms are determined by the interaction between the bacteria (pathogens) and the host immune response.

“That interaction explains the severity of the disease,” says Assistant Professor Liana Tsenova, MD, “the progression and the extent of tissue damage. Even after successful antibiotic treatment of TB, many patients experience residual pulmonary impairment that can lead to chronic respiratory insufficiency.”

For 18 years Professor Tsenova has been working in the lab of Professor Gilla Kaplan, first at Rockefeller University and later at the University of Medicine and Dentistry, New Jersey, where they have been trying to understand the complex molecular mechanisms underlying the immune response in order to design successful immunomodulatory therapy in addition to the antibiotic treatment. They have used a rabbit model of pulmonary TB to evaluate the effect of a compound CC-3052 on the outcome of treatment with the antibiotic isoniazid (INH).

“Our data shows that co-treatment of M. tuberculosis infected rabbits with CC-3052 and INH,” adds Professor Tsenova, “significantly reduces the extent of immune pathology compared to INH alone, as determined by histological analysis of infected tissues and gene expression. In addition, combined treatment with INH and CC-3052 improved bacterial clearance from the lungs. These findings support the potential for adjunctive immune modulation to shorten the treatment of pulmonary TB and reduce the risk of chronic respiratory impairment.” 

In July 2011, Professor Tsenova presented this work at the international Gordon Research Conference, Tuberculosis Drug Development in Barga, Italy. In order to bring more awareness to the problem, she mentored two undergraduate Emerging Scholars students during the fall 2011 semester who worked with her on a research project “Epidemiologic Picture of Tuberculosis in Brooklyn.”


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