Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB). The vaccine against TB is produced from Mycobacterium bovis bacterium, which is related to MTB and infects cattle. Differences between the strains means that this vaccine, Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG), is of limited effectiveness against TB. However, it is the only vaccine available.
Ajit Lalvani and colleagues, Imperial College London, UK, have identified a protein, called EspC, that triggers a stronger immune response in TB sufferers than any other known molecule. The protein is secreted by MTB but not by the Mycobacterium bovis bacterium. As a result, the BCG vaccine does not induce an immune response to this protein. Development of a vaccine based on EspC would provide additional immunity to that provided by BCG.
EspC could also be useful as a diagnostic tool, because it provokes an immune response in TB-infected people, but not in vaccinated people.
- Rv3615c is a highly immunodominant RD1 (Region of Difference 1)-dependent secreted antigen specific for Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection
K. A. Millington, S. M. Fortune, Jeffrey Low, A. Garces, S. M. Hingley-Wilson, M. Wickremasinghe, O. M. Kon, A. Lalvani,
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 2011.
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