Researchers identify new markers of tuberculosis

Aug. 15, 2013

Researchers at the University of Southampton (UK) have identified new markers of tuberculosis (TB) that may help in the development of new diagnostic tests and treatments. Their study, published online in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, investigated the proteins that are released by a breakdown of the lung structure in TB patients. They found that fragments released by breakdown of the lung’s key proteins (collagen and elastin) are increased in the sputum of patients with TB. They also discovered that one particular collagen fragment, Procollagen III N-Terminal Propeptide (PIIINP), was elevated in blood samples from patients with TB.

Paul Elkington, PhD, who led the study, believes that these new markers could be used to screen individuals and halt transmission between population groups. “These lung breakdown products have never been identified in TB before,” he says. “They have the potential to be used as new markers to identify patients with TB and monitor the effect of new treatments on lung damage. This may permit population screening to find and treat highly infectious individuals to break the cycle of transmission, especially in developing world countries where TB is most prominent.”

The research was carried out in collaboration with Imperial College London and in South Africa at the University of Cape Town and the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV (K-RITH) in Durban. The team is now investigating all fragments released by lung destruction to develop new test kits that can be done at the patient’s bedside. Read the study abstract.

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