An international team of researchers have found a way to determine which individuals infected with tuberculosis are most likely to develop active TB disease in the future. This important discovery, made with support from the National Institutes of Health, would allow doctors to identify people who are at high risk of developing active tuberculosis disease and target them with therapies to prevent them from getting sick.
After analyzing blood samples from over 6,000 adolescent volunteers with latent TB infection in South Africa, researchers found that volunteers who went on to develop active TB disease displayed patterns of gene expression that were different from volunteers who did not develop active TB disease. The “risk signature” was confined to 16 genes, and could be detected in a blood sample as early as 18 months before the development of active TB disease.
In the second phase of the study, researchers enrolled healthy volunteers who lived with people who had recently been diagnosed with active TB disease, in South Africa and Gambia. Here again, the same gene patterns were found in the volunteers who eventually developed active TB disease.
Read more about the study, conducted by researchers from the University of Cape Town and the Center for Infectious Disease Research in Seattle Washington, here.