Scientists Discover Ethnic Differences in Immune Response to TB Bacterium

Queen Mary University of London, July 4, 2013

The immune response to the bacterium that causes tuberculosis (TB) varies between patients of different ethnic origin, raising important implications for the development of tests to diagnose and monitor treatment for the disease, according to new research published today in the journal PLOS Pathogens.

The study, led by researchers at Queen Mary, University of London, in collaboration with the Medical Research Council’s National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), analysed the immune response of 128 newly-diagnosed TB patients in London who were divided by ethnicity into those of African (45), European (27), Asian (55) or mixed European/Asian (1) ancestry.

TB is an infection caused by the TB bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It commonly affects the lungs. While it grew rare in the UK due to BCG (TB) vaccination, improvements in living standards and the introduction of effective antibiotic treatment, it has been on the increase since the late 1980s. TB also remains a major global health problem with nearly nine million new cases and 1.4 million deaths in 2011.

By analysing the levels of various inflammatory markers in blood samples taken before treatment, the scientists showed that immune responses of Asians and Europeans were similar to each other, but different from those of Africans. This difference was caused by ethnic variation in the patients’ genetic make-up and was  not related to the strain of TB bacterium that the patients were infected with.

Dr Adrian Martineau, Reader in Respiratory Infection and Immunity at the Blizard Institute, part of Queen Mary, who led the research, said: “The TB bacterium has co-evolved with humans following migration to Europe and Asia some 70,000 years ago, and different strains of the TB bacterium disproportionately infect particular ethnic groups. Experiments with white blood cells cultured in the lab have shown that different strains of the TB bacterium elicit different amounts of inflammation. One might therefore expect that TB patients’ immune responses would differ according to the strain of TB bacterium that they are infected with.

“However our study has shown, for the first time, that it is actually ethnic differences in the patient’s genetic make-up that cause most of this variation in immune responses–with little effect of the TB strain they are infected with.”

By analysing blood samples taken from 85 of the original cohort after an eight-week period of intensive treatment, the researchers found that ethnic variation in immune responses became even more marked. A number of immunological biomarkers, which correlated with either fast or slow clearance of the TB bacteria, were identified and found to differ between Africans and Europeans/Asians.

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  • Rhialto

    Liberals acknowledge that heredity causes different races to have different physical characteristics ; the liberals deny that heredity causes any difference in mental characteristics among races.

    • WR_the_realist

      Even while they sneer at the young earth Biblical literalists, the liberals insist that evolution has acted on every organ of the human body except the brain.

      • me

        Do Bantus have brains? Will they be the only survivors of a zombie apocalypse? Points to ponder…..

    • me

      Who are you going to believe, the liberal Marxist bullshit, or your lying eyes? I can tell the ‘other’ just by observation. I don’t need a microscope or an x-ray to confirm the huge gap between the different races….

  • unadorned

    “However our study has shown, for the first time, that it is actually ethnic differences in the patient’s genetic make-up that cause most of this variation in immune responses–with little effect of the TB strain they are infected with.”
    I’ll quote this the next time a liberal tells me race is a “social construct.”

    • David Ashton

      It must be a medical construct of a racist society (q.v. Theo Goldberg)!

    • Sick of it

      It’s a social construct to social scientists and a very real thing to real scientists.

  • unadorned

    ” While it grew rare in the UK due to BCG (TB) vaccination, improvements in living standards and the introduction of effective antibiotic treatment, it has been on the increase since the late 1980s. ”
    The article is too PC to acknowledge why TB has been on the increase since the late 1980’s.

    • me

      Lie down with dogs, and you wake up with fleas…..

  • The__Bobster

    While it grew rare in the UK due to BCG (TB) vaccination, improvements in living standards and the introduction of effective antibiotic treatment, it has been on the increase since the late 1980s. TB also remains a major global health problem with nearly nine million new cases and 1.4 million deaths in 2011.
    _____

    The obvious solution is to stop inviting the rest of the globe.

  • bigone4u

    There’s a lot of TB and worse coming into the USA from Mexico. The south Texas jails test all prisoners for TB as soon as they arrive, but it’s up to the prisoners to follow up if a bump appears on their arms showing TB. It takes a few days for the bump to appear and many have been bailed out by then and are unlikely to seek treatment. So TB spreads.

    • me

      That’s why all European Americans should get the TB vaccine…

      • IstvanIN

        I didn’t think it was available in this country?

  • David Ashton

    Ethnic differences in illness/disease/nutrition response have been known and recorded since Darwin.

    • Spartacus

      Yes, but stating proven facts isn’t what it used to be back in Darwin’s day…

    • Nathanwartooth

      Darwin said in his book Descent of Man that the differences between the races were too many to list.

      Now obviously the differences are not infinite but he got the gist of it. In just about anything you can measure, there are differences between races.

  • rightrightright

    The BCG inoculation against TB used to be automatically provided to British children via the National Health Service. Since about 2000, this has been stopped, to save money. These days it is only available to immigrants. Another fine example of our white privilege.