July 2, 2019

Tuberculosis is a major concern for HIV/AIDS patients, as a full one-third of all patients with the autoimmune disease die of complications from TB.

But Professor Deepak Kaushal, PhD, of the Southwest National Primate Research Center (SWNPRC) at Texas Biomedical Research Institute, says recent research could help scientists better understand how to prevent this deadly condition.

It’s known the same mechanism of HIV/AIDS which leads to the loss of immune cells (CD4 and T cells) in other parts of the body also targets the lungs, allowing latent Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) bacteria infection to become active TB. But until now, scientists weren’t sure which parts of the lungs were targeted by the immunodeficiency.

Kaushal and a team of researchers conducted a study on rhesus monkeys infected with TB and SIV (simian immunodeficiency virus), using tissue either from a humanized mouse model or from humans. The findings indicated not all T cells in the lungs are affected by HIV—only the ones embedded inside the lung tissue. T cells in the lung sacs (alveoli) where oxygen enters the blood stream were still functional.

“If our findings are validated in future testing, this leads to the potential for new therapies that would prevent the loss of these crucial T cells during HIV infection,” Kaushal said. “The idea is that fewer HIV patients would progress to TB.”

Kaushal further explained, “[This is] important to know because we can target vaccines, therapeutics and drugs to these specific T cells in the lungs.”

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