Scientists in Ireland have discovered a mechanism that could explain why smokers are more likely to contract tuberculosis (TB) or experience complications with the disease.
The study, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, involved smokers, ex-smokers and non-smokers. Cells were taken from the lungs of all participants using a bronchoscopy. In the laboratory, the researchers assessed what happened to the cells when infected with the bacterium that causes TB.
The researchers found that the white blood, or immune, cells from the lungs of smokers and ex-smokers were more susceptible to the TB infection upon contact with it than that of non-smokers. They discovered that this was because damage to these cells had rendered them unable to fight the bacteria, giving way to infection.
These findings could be used to improve TB control methods, as well as in the development of new treatments and vaccines for the disease.
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