A study conducted by a UKZN master’s student, Mr Thabiso Dlamini, suggests that Mycobacterium tuberculosis invades epithelial cells with the aid of one of its major adhesions, M. tuberculosis Curli Pili (MTP), which induces differential host gene expression and immune response in those cells.
Titled: “Whole Transcriptome Analysis to Elucidate the Role of M. tuberculosis Curli Pili (MTP) on Host Gene Regulation in a Pulmonary Epithelial Cell Model”, the study aimed to understand mechanisms, especially bacterial structures, used by M.tuberculosis to interact with human host cells, which as a result leads to the cause of Tuberculosis (TB).
Dlamini presented his findings of the study at the TB 2016 International Conference, which was part of the AIDS Conference in Durban earlier this year.
Dlamini said about 1.5 million people worldwide died from TB every year while nine million new cases were reported. ‘HIV/TB co-infection and the emergence of MDR and XDR TB infections, have added a further load to already overstretched health facilities, making it more difficult for this disease to be controlled, especially in developing countries.’
Under the supervision of Professor Manormoney Pillay, Dlamini and his research group have identified MTP as a potential biomarker and novel target for TB vaccines and antimicrobial drugs. ‘We have previously shown the role of MTP in biofilm formation as well in adherence to and invasion of host cells such as macrophages and epithelial cells.’
The study used RNA-sequencing, a latest technique in transcriptome analysis, in order to elucidate the role of MTP on host gene regulation in an epithelial cell model where the team infected A549 epithelial cells with the wild type strain and the mtp-knockout mutant strain of M. tuberculosis.
‘Our findings showed that MTP plays a very important role in gene regulation of host cells where it was shown to be used by M. tuberculosis as an invasin and a strong inducer of a host immune response,’ Dlamini said.
According to Dlamini, the findings added to the growing evidence that M. tuberculosis uses MTP as one of its virulence factors during infection of host cells.
‘An abstract of this study has also been accepted for poster presentation at the International Meeting on Emerging Diseases and Surveillance which will be held from 4-7 November 2016 in Vienna in Austria.
He is currently working on two manuscript publications that will emanate from his study. ‘I’m also looking at adding a few more objectives, which I believe are worthy of being explored further in order to convert the study to PhD.’
Dlamini, who is a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society, holds a BSc degree in Cell Biology and Microbiology and an Honours degree in Medical Science. He is a recipient of the UKZN Special Honours Scholarship, UKZN Postgraduate Scholarship and NRF Innovation Masters and Doctoral Scholarships.
Born in the rural town of Ingwavuma in northern KwaZulu-Natal, Dlamini is the first person in his family to attend varsity full time.
He keeps fit by going to gym and jogging and loves listening to music. He currently lives in Durban with his mother, stepfather and two siblings.