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Tuberculosis bacterium's outer cell wall disarms the body's defense to remain infectious

The bacterium that causes tuberculosis has a unique molecule on its outer cell surface that blocks a key part of the body’s defense. New research suggests this represents a novel mechanism in the microbe’s evolving efforts to remain hidden from the human immune system.

Researchers found that the TB bacterium has a molecule on its outer surface called lipomannan that can stop production of an important protein in the body’s immune cells that helps contain TB infection and maintain it in a latent state. This protein is called tumor necrosis factor (TNF). When TNF is not produced in sufficient quantities, the TB bacterium can grow unchecked and cause an uncontrolled active infection inside and outside of the lungs.
 
 

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