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Tuberculosis in Zebrafish

Zebrafisch

Research with tiny zebrafish larvae is revealing details about the infection process underlying the spread of tuberculosis (TB) that could lead to new treatments for human patients.

Over the last 15 years, a team led by Dr Ramakrishnan, now at Cambridge University, has been studying the progress of Mycobacterium marinum infection in newly hatched zebrafish rather than use the more traditional animal models for TB such as mice, rabbits, guinea pigs or even monkeys.

Dr Ramakrishnan’steam exploit the optical transparency and genetic tractability of the zebrafish to monitor the infection process in real time and modulate it using genetically defined host and bacterial mutants.

The researchers helped identify a genetic mutation in the zebrafish that makes them more susceptible to TB and were able to show that the same mutation make humans more susceptible to tuberculosis meningitis, the most severe form of TB, that causes 20 to 50% mortality even when the patients get antibiotics.
This mutation influences how people react to TB, whether they live or die from it, or respond to a common adjunctive treatment that is used for tuberculosis meningitis.

“TB has been one of the most intractable of human diseases. It will require a fundamental understanding of how it continues to plague us for it to go the way of polio or smallpox and become a disease of the past.

This fundamental understanding might just come from this work with zebrafish.

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Tuberculosis in Zebrafish

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