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Indian American Researcher’s Landmark Discovery in TB Treatment

Bangalore: Indian American researcher Bikul Das at Stanford University has come up with a remarkable study in the field of TB. He made a significant discovery regarding the complexity faced in eliminating the disease completely even after treatment, reports Manimugdha S Sharma of Times of India.

Das has been conducting research on the topic for the last 15 years and recently he published a study in the journal ‘Science Translational Medicine’. As per the study, the TB bacteria hide itself beyond the reach of antibiotics, in a group of stem cells inside the bone marrow. The bacteria are supposed to reappear later on, thus injuring the body.
According to Deepjyoti Kalita, a professor of microbiology at Gauhati Medical College, who is also the co-author of the study, the discovery by Das is a landmark one. He adds, “We never knew where TB bacteria used to hide; but now that we know that the bacteria invade and hide in stem cells in the bone marrow, it would be possible to hunt them down and kill them in future. The present medicines don’t help much in this respect’’, reports Sharma.

Nearly 1.9 million people die annually because of TB, a disease which is normally considered as ‘curable’. DOTS regimen is the most popular TB treatment among Indians, but even this fails to completely eliminate it. Das studied the Idu-Mishimi community of Arunachal Pradesh in his study, where many suffer from the disease. Along with locating genetic material from bacteria inside the stem cells, Das and his team also found active bacteria from TB patients’ cells who had already been treated for the disease.

“We now need to learn how the bacteria find and infect this tiny population of stem cells, and what triggers it to reactivate years or decades after successful treatment of the disease,” says Das.

Ashwini Khanna of Loknayak Hospital, Delhi, terms the research as ‘being full of promise.’ “This might propel further research and change the way TB is treated across the globe,” he says.

Praveen Pandey, a pulmonologist with Escorts Hospital gives advice on the discovery and warns, “It may be possible to identify, isolate and kill TB bacteria even before they cause any problem; but there is also the risk of over-treatment. There could be a rush of people willing to be treated without any need for it.”

Das had earlier come up with a breakthrough in cancer research, in the month of June. In a study led by him, at the Stanford University School of Medicine it was proved that in times of stress certain human embryonic stem cells produce molecules that benefit themselves along with the helping the nearby cells to survive. He was congratulated by UK scientist Dr Peter W Andrews, one of the two gurus of embryonic stem cell research, for his findings.

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