Scientists have shown how a parasitic worm infection common in the developing world increases susceptibility to tuberculosis. The study demonstrated that treating the parasite reduces lung damage seen in mice that also are infected with tuberculosis, thereby eliminating the vulnerability to tuberculosis (TB) that the parasite is known to cause.
The study raises the possibility of using inexpensive and widely available anti-parasitic drugs as a preventive measure in places where the parasite and TB are common — stopping infection with the parasite and reducing susceptibility to TB and the risk of a latent TB infection progressing to disease.
“Scientists and doctors have known that having both infections — this parasitic worm and tuberculosis — results in increased susceptibility to severe lung disease than having TB alone,” said Shabaana A. Khader, PhD, associate professor of molecular microbiology. “But if we don’t understand why co-infection increases the susceptibility to TB, it is difficult to know how to deal with the situation.”