Antibodies That Protect Against Tuberculosis

Antibodies That Protect Against Tuberculosis

About 25 percent of the world’s population is infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), the bacterium that causes tuberculosis (TB). Accumulating evidence suggests that antibodies may play a role in combatting Mtb infection.

In a recent study, Jacqueline M. Achkar, M.D., M.Sc., and colleagues analyzed sera from 97 U.S. immigrants with various stages of Mtb infection. The researchers were interested in the antibody response triggered by certain glycans on the surface of Mtb. They found that one of those glycans— arabinomannan— provoked the formation of antibodies that were protective against Mtb in human cell cultures and in mice exposed to low doses of Mtb. They further found that those antibodies acted protectively in specifically targeting certain glycan fragments (epitopes) of arabinomannan. The team’s findings could inform the development of improved vaccines and immunotherapies against TB, both of which are urgently needed.

The study was published online on January 14, 2020, in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. Dr. Achkar is an associate professor of medicine and of microbiology & immunology at Einstein.