Infectious diseases

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Could T cells offer protection against the development of TB?

Lead researcher

Dr Fatoumatta Darboe and Dr Jackie Cliff




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Dr Fatoumatta Darboe from the MRC Unit The Gambia and Dr Jackie Cliff from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine will collaborate on a research project investigating the role of unconventional T cells in protective immunity during progression to Tuberculosis.

Dr Fatoumatta Darboe Dr Fatoumatta Darboe

Tuberculosis (TB) is a major global health problem, with around 10 million people becoming ill and around 1.4 million people losing their lives to the disease each year. It is estimated that around one quarter of the world’s population is latently infected with the bacterium which causes TB, Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The majority of infected people never develop the disease, so being able to identify which people are at risk of becoming ill and what biological processes may be protective against disease progression will improve TB control and vaccine development.

Dr Jackie Cliff Dr Jackie Cliff

There are known biological signatures of gene expression, related to specific immune processes, which are expressed in people at an early stage as they become ill. Very little is known about what this means in terms of the immune response, particularly in specific cells called 'unconventional T cells' (which recognise a wide range of components of the TB bacteria).

Dr Darboe and Dr Cliff will determine whether unconventional T cells are protective against the development of TB disease over time in people exposed to others with TB. The findings will provide the basis for future publications and a large-scale collaborative project, fostering ties between researchers in the institutions.

This project has been funded by the 2020 Dorothy Temple Cross International Collaboration Grant.

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