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Sunday 27th May 2018

Crucial TB gene discovered

28th October 2008

Genetic variation could play a key role in deciding whether people become infected with tuberculosis (TB), according to new research carried out in Singapore.


Scientists in the city have identified a gene associated with susceptibility to TB.

Their research, published in the open access journal PLoS Genetics, also shows that males are more susceptible to TB than females.

Only 5-10% of the two billion people infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis around the world will ever go on to develop the disease.

This discrepancy suggested to researchers at a number of top Singaporean universities that genetic variation could be involved in host immune response to M tuberculosis.

They found after looking at a specific group of 18 genes in 375 pulmonary TB patients and 387 controls from Indonesia that changes in a gene called TLR8 are related to TB susceptibility in males.

Further studies involving much larger samples of 1,837 pulmonary TB patients and 1,779 controls from Russia again found evidence of the same association.

The study authors attributed the susceptibility in men to genetic variants of TLR8, which is carried on the X chromosome, of which men have only one copy.

Lead author Sonia Davila of Singapore's Genome Institute said males carrying only one copy of the gene could have a higher chance of suffering from the disease.

She said TLR8 was previously thought to be involved only in response to viruses. This study is the first time its involvement with a bacterial infection has been discovered.

Meanwhile, Paul MacAry, assistant professor from the National University of Singapore Graduate School, said the research could provide researchers and clinician scientists with novel targets for therapeutic intervention.

There may also be broader applicability to China, which has the world's second largest TB patient group, as Indonesians have a similar genetic variation to Chinese people.

But other experts said the link was not yet firmly established, and called for further studies.

Gao Qian, senior scientist at Shanghai-based Fudan University, said it was still more important to offer free drugs to TB patients and design reasonable regimens for treatments.


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