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Anti-PD-1 therapy exacerbates TB infection

18 March 2021

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Medical advances in one area often raise hopes for application in other conditions too. But a study into the successful anti-PD-1 cancer therapies cautions against overzealous implementation elsewhere. The treatment unleashes the immune system to fight tumours by blocking the activity of PD-1, a protein that regulates immune cells. Researchers hoped that tuberculosis patients might also benefit from having this shackle released. When they observed the response in infected rhesus macaques, they saw that the boost in some immune cells was accompanied by a decline in the activity of others key to controlling tuberculosis (blue in the infected tissue, among other immune system factors, green and pink) and an increase in bacterial presence. PD-1’s role in limiting the immune system appears to be important for keeping inflammation in check and infection at bay, suggesting the treatment should be cautiously applied elsewhere, and reminding that in medicine, one size rarely fits all.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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