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Dr James Ussher awarded Dean's Bequest funding

Posted by on 24 October 2014 | Comments

Dr James Ussher has been awarded $29,980 of the University of Otago's Dean’s Bequest funds to support his research project: Determining the role of innate immune cells in early clearance of Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

Project description

Tuberculosis remains a global threat to public health, especially in the era of HIV infection and increasing drug resistance. The current vaccine, BCG, induces incomplete protection; despite being available for almost 100 years, it has failed to control tuberculosis. Therefore a better vaccine against Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of tuberculosis, is required.

A unique problem in developing a vaccine against Mycobacterium tuberculosis is how to induce better protection than natural infection. Patients who have been treated for tuberculosis are at increased risk of reinfection, suggesting their immune responses are not protective. Importantly, however, M. tuberculosis exposure only results in infection in some, but not all individuals. Among those who are highly exposed but persistently uninfected are cases of early clearance – where M. tuberculosis is successfully eradicated, most likely by innate immune defenses, before an adaptive immune response develops. In this study we will investigate the innate immune cells associated with early clearance.

Using an existing large-scale case contact field study in Bandung, Indonesia, we will identify highly exposed but uninfected individuals to investigate the mechanism of early clearance. Specifically, we will investigate the role of different innate immune cells in early clearance. Identification of innate immune cell populations responsible for early clearance will enable the development of novel vaccination and therapeutic strategies.

This study is a collaboration between Dr Ussher, Professor Philip Hill and Dr Ayesha Verrall (Centre for International Health, University of Otago), and the Universitas Padjadjaran, Bandung, Indonesia.