Nav: Home

Scientists discover how vitamin A drives the human lung immune system to control TB

June 13, 2018

Scientists at Trinity College Dublin and St James's Hospital, Dublin, have discovered how vitamin A drives the lung immune system to deal with tuberculosis (TB). The findings have just been published in a top respiratory journal, the American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology.

TB is the biggest infectious killer in the world, and multiple-drug resistant TB, which does not respond to regular antibiotics, is a major threat to global health. TB killed 1.7 million people in 2016 and is considered the top cause of death related to infection worldwide. With the increased incidence of drug-resistant TB at home and abroad, additional strategies are required to treat the disease. Unlike in the case of antibiotics, TB resistance should not develop against vitamin A.

Vitamin A deficiency is commonly observed in patients with TB and is associated with a 10-fold increase in the risk in developing the disease. It drives the global TB epidemic, yet the mechanism by which vitamin A protects people's lungs against TB infection remains unexplored.

Now a team of scientists at Trinity College Dublin and St James's Hospital, Dublin, have shown for the first time how vitamin A effectively supports lung immunity against TB. Their research explains a crucial mechanism that underpins vitamin A as a therapeutic option for this disease. It shows that vitamin A supports the recycling and waste disposal functions of the human immune system (called autophagy); this in turn allows for better clearance of the bacteria that cause TB. The discovery has the potential of developing more lung targeted treatment of the disease by boosting the patient's immune response, using the nutritional supplement.

The scientists demonstrated how special white cells (called macrophages) in the human lung were more effective at controlling TB bacteria, when supported with vitamin A. In a previous study, they had demonstrated that vitamin A could also drive anti-inflammatory signals in the human lung. Vitamin A therefore not only limits the TB bacteria, but also prevents unwanted inflammation in the lung, which makes it a particularly attractive therapeutic option.

The Trinity scientists also demonstrated that vitamin A supported the immune system in killing other important lung infections such as whooping cough. With the incidence of whooping cough increasing, the research also suggests that vitamin A might be useful to treat that respiratory infection also.

Commenting on the significance of the findings, Dr Sharee Basdeo Trinity postdoctoral fellow at St James's Hospital and lead author of the paper said: "TB remains a pressing global issue affecting millions worldwide. The high prevalence of vitamin A deficiency is a major driver in the global TB epidemic. Our next step will be to translate our research from the laboratory bench to the bedside. If this works out, we would plan to add vitamin A to the existing drug therapies to improve the outcome for our patients."
-end-
Professor in Medicine, Joseph Keane was senior author on the paper.The research was funded by the Health Research Board, the Royal City of Dublin Hospital Trust, and the Irish Research Council. It was conducted at the Trinity Translational Medicine Institute at St James's Hospital, Dublin.

Notes to Editor:
  1. Tuberculosis spreads from person to person by inhaling infected droplets made when the TB sufferer coughs.
  2. According to WHO, TB ranks in the top 10 causes of death worldwide. TB killed 1.7 million people in 2016. TB is associated with malnutrition. Susceptibility is often due to the general health of the person who is infected. Therefore it is also more common in people on immuno-suppressant drugs, in people who smoke, have diabetes or HIV.
  3. There is a very high incidence of TB patients testing for drug-resistance
  4. Vitamin A cannot be synthesised by the body, it must be obtained from diet, this can be difficult to achieve in low-income settings. Vitamin A deficiency is commonly observed in patients with TB and both are prevalent in developing countries.


Trinity College Dublin

Related Immune System Articles:

The immune system may explain skepticism towards immigrants
There is a strong correlation between our fear of infection and our skepticism towards immigrants.
New insights on how pathogens escape the immune system
The bacterium Salmonella enterica causes gastroenteritis in humans and is one of the leading causes of food-borne infectious diseases.
Understanding how HIV evades the immune system
Monash University (Australia) and Cardiff University (UK) researchers have come a step further in understanding how the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) evades the immune system.
Carbs during workouts help immune system recovery
Eating carbohydrates during intense exercise helps to minimise exercise-induced immune disturbances and can aid the body's recovery, QUT research has found.
A new model for activation of the immune system
By studying a large protein (the C1 protein) with X-rays and electron microscopy, researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark have established a new model for how an important part of the innate immune system is activated.
Guards of the human immune system unraveled
Dendritic cells represent an important component of the immune system: they recognize and engulf invaders, which subsequently triggers a pathogen-specific immune response.
How our immune system targets TB
Researchers have seen, for the very first time, how the human immune system recognizes tuberculosis (TB).
How a fungus inhibits the immune system of plants
A newly discovered protein from a fungus is able to suppress the innate immune system of plants.
A new view of the immune system
Pathogen epitopes are fragments of bacterial or viral proteins. Nearly a third of all existing human epitopes consist of two different fragments.
TB tricks the body's immune system to allow it to spread
Tuberculosis tricks the immune system into attacking the body's lung tissue so the bacteria are allowed to spread to other people, new research from the University of Southampton suggests.

Related Immune System Reading:

How the Immune System Works (The How it Works Series)
by Lauren M. Sompayrac (Author)

How the Immune System Works has helped thousands of students understand what’s in their big, thick, immunology textbooks. In his book, Dr. Sompayrac cuts through the jargon and details to reveal, in simple language, the essence of this complex subject.

In fifteen easy-to-read chapters, featuring the humorous style and engaging analogies developed by Dr. Sompayrac, How the Immune System Works explains how the immune system players work together to protect us from disease – and, most importantly, why they do it this way.

Rigorously updated for this fifth... View Details


The Immune System: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
by Paul Klenerman (Author)

The immune system is central to human health and the focus of much medical research. Growing understanding of the immune system, and especially the creation of immune memory (long lasting protection), which can be harnessed in the design of vaccines, have been major breakthroughs in medicine.

In this Very Short Introduction, Paul Klenerman describes the immune system, and how it works in health and disease. In particular he focuses on the human immune system, considering how it evolved, the basic rules that govern its behavior, and the major health threats where it is... View Details


The Immune System Recovery Plan: A Doctor's 4-Step Program to Treat Autoimmune Disease
by Susan Blum (Author), Mark Hyman (Foreword), Michele Bender (Foreword)

One of the most sought-after experts in the field of functional medicine shares her proven four-step program to treat, reverse, and prevent autoimmune conditions and repair your immune system.

• Are you constantly exhausted?
• Do you frequently feel sick?
• Are you hot when others are cold, or cold when everyone else is warm?
• Do you have trouble thinking clearly, aka “brain fog”?
• Do you often feel irritable?
• Are you experiencing hair loss, dry skin, or unexplained weight fluctuation?
• Do your joints ache or swell but you don’t know... View Details


The Immune System, 4th Edition
by Peter Parham (Author)

A clear, concise, and contemporary presentation of immunological concepts

This text emphasizes the human immune system and presents concepts with a balanced level of detail to describe how the immune system works. Written for undergraduate, medical, veterinary, dental, and pharmacy students, it makes generous use of medical examples to illustrate points. This classroom-proven textbook offers clear writing, full-color illustrations, and section and chapter summaries that make the content accessible and easily understandable to students. View Details


Basic Immunology: Functions and Disorders of the Immune System, 5e
by Abul K. Abbas MBBS (Author), Andrew H. H. Lichtman MD PhD (Author), Shiv Pillai MBBS PhD (Author)

In this updated edition of Basic Immunology, the authors continue to deliver a clear, modern introduction to immunology, making this the obvious choice for today's busy students. Their experience as teachers, course directors, and lecturers helps them to distill the core information required to understand this complex field. Through the use of high-quality illustrations, relevant clinical cases, and concise, focused text, it's a perfectly accessible introduction to the workings of the human immune system, with an emphasis on clinical relevance.... View Details


Immune System: 101 Natural Ways to Boost your Immune System, Fight Germs, and Live a Healthy Life
by Living in Health (Author)

BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM! 101 NATURAL WAYS TO BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM, FIGHT GERMS, AND LIVE A HEALTHY LIFE Your immune system is the body’s only line of defense against both foreign and internal threats. It is clear therefore that you must maintain your immune system in the best possible condition for optimal health. It is not a myth that some foods are better than others at boosting our immunity. If you were ever wondering what might be the best foods in the world to help keep your immune system in the best shape, then this book is simply the way to go. It really helps to have a great... View Details


The Immune System, 3rd Edition
by Peter Parham (Author)

The Immune System, Third Edition emphasizes the human immune system and synthesizes immunological concepts into a comprehensible, up-to-date, and reader-friendly account of how the immune system works. 

Written for undergraduate, medical, veterinary, dental, and pharmacy students in immunology courses, it makes generous use of medical examples to illustrate points. 

The Third Edition has been extensively revised and updated and includes two new chapters on innate and adaptive immunity, which explore the physical, cellular, and molecular principles... View Details


Boost Your Immune System: Strategies for Strengthening Your Immune System with Foods, Herbs, Stress Management, and More!
by Editors of Publications International Ltd. (Author)

Get and stay healthy, the natural way! Boost Your Immune System is packed with information on how to boost your immune system.
Chapter topics include sleep, stress management (meditation, exercise, gratitude, mindfulness, massage, and more), power foods, vitamins and herbs, environmental factors and preventative medicine, and home remedies for getting over common ailments quickly.
You'll learn how your immune system works, how to fine-tune it by eating certain foods and vitamins, and how your mind and body work together to produce optimal health.
4-color photography enhances the book. View Details


The Immune System Cure: Optimize Your Immune System in 30 Days-The Natural Way!
by Lorna Vanderheaghe (Author)

What causes one person to catch a cold or flu and another to avoid it? Why do serious outbreaks of infectious diseases leave some individuals untouched? What allows someone to be incapacitated by allergies? The answer lies within nature itself-our immune system. The Immune System Cure provides simple techniques for supercharging your immune system to resist and prevent disease. Through diet, exercise, stress reduction and nutritional supplements, including plant sterols and sterolins, you can harness the power of your immune system in just 30 days and help it combat: Antibiotic-resistant... View Details


Immune: How Your Body Defends and Protects You (Bloomsbury Sigma)
by Catherine Carver (Author)

The human body is like an exceedingly well-fortified castle, defended by billions of soldiers--some live for less than a day, others remember battles for decades, but all are essential in protecting us from disease. This hidden army is our immune system, and without it we could not survive the eternal war between us and our microscopic enemies.

Immune explores the incredible arsenal that lives within us--how it knows what to attack and what to defend, and how it kills everything from the common cold to the plague bacterium. We see what happens when the immune system turns on... View Details

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

The Person You Become
Over the course of our lives, we shed parts of our old selves, embrace new ones, and redefine who we are. This hour, TED speakers explore ideas about the experiences that shape the person we become. Guests include aerobatics pilot and public speaker Janine Shepherd, writers Roxane Gay and Taiye Selasi, activist Jackson Bird, and fashion executive Kaustav Dey.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#478 She Has Her Mother's Laugh
What does heredity really mean? Carl Zimmer would argue it's more than your genes along. In "She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Power, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity", Zimmer covers the history of genetics and what kinship and heredity really mean when we're discovering how to alter our own DNA, and, potentially, the DNA of our children.