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Joint project to study TB

Researchers from i3S, led by Margarida Saraiva, recently launched a project in Guinea-Bissau to understand why the bacterium Mycobacterium africanum, which causes tuberculosis in some regions of Africa, is "less severe” and associated with “a slower progression of the disease”.


Margarida Saraiva, leader of the research group “Immune Regulation” and project coordinator, revealed that the main objective of researchers is “to understand why the tuberculosis caused by Mycobacterium africanum has different characteristics from the tuberculosis caused by the more common Mycobacterium tuberculosis”.


The project, called “Host pathogen interactions in tuberculosis: lessons from Mycobacterium africanum” is funded by the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) and the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), and was launched in early December in Guinea-Bissau , a West African country where, according to the researcher, “tuberculosis is very prevalent, especially that caused by Mycobacterium africanum”.


The latest study, comparing the prevalence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis with that of Mycobacterium africanum in that country, indicated that about 50% of the disease would be caused by Mycobacterium africanum. “We have an excellent opportunity to study Mycobacterium africanum, as well as the reasons why this bacterium has not spread from Africa to other continents like Mycobacterium tuberculosis has" says the researcher.


The initiative, which has the collaboration of the Bandim Health Project, the Guinea-Bissau Public Health Laboratory and the Raoul Follereau Hospital, the country's main tuberculosis treatment center, as well as Aarhus University (Denmark) empower the Guinean population to study tuberculosis.


For the launch of the project, which includes Guinean and Danish researchers, a workshop was organized for health professionals (“Pulmonary Tuberculosis: from the bacterium to the human host”). Margarida Saraiva from the i3S team, which has been developing several projects in the field of tuberculosis since 2015, predicts that next year there will also be workshops related to the experimental part of the project.