Blog Infectious Disease

Identifying tuberculosis

Written by Bailey Aaron, undergraduate in biology at Green Mountain College and participant in the Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program

The tuberculosis research conducted by Shabaana Khader, PhD, Associate Professor of Molecular Microbiology, reveals a unique gene signature with a phenotype for latent tuberculosis. By collecting blood samples from individuals infected with mycobacterium tuberculosis over a two year period, researchers were able to determine a genotypic difference between those who develop active tuberculosis and those who only develop latent tuberculosis. 

Discoveries from this study estimates that one third of the world is infected with latent Tuberculosis.

The global significance of this discovery is vast; information gained from the gene signature has the potential to guide preventive treatments.

Mycobacterium tuberculosis

During the conversation with Dr. Khader, I was taken with the certainty of the data and the future of preventive treatments. In a field with many uncertainties it is inspiring when a definite conclusion can be drawn! Despite the long road to eliminating tuberculosis that Dr. Khader mentioned, it was motivating to learn of such findings.

A question that came to me during the conversation was: if Dr. Khader and others has noticed any difference between blood types, because in the field of ETEC such discoveries have been made. When I asked Dr. Khader about this, she said it was something that they aim to explore, but have not yet. She then went on to speak about the importance of multiple disciplinary collaboration and the importance of having diverse backgrounds when studying disease/treatments. Hearing this from Dr. Khader was encouraging, because it seems that at times science can become a competition between people when really it is about solving problems for all people.