A great contribution in studying dormant Mycobacterium in TB that has affected nearly 4 billion people in the world and causing 1.9 million deaths yearly was made by the Idu-Mishmi community of Arunachal Pradesh and RIWATCH (Research Institute of World's Ancient Traditions Cultures and Heritage).
TB is a huge problem in India. The incidence of this infectious disease is much more higher in Northeast of India and especially Arunachal Pradesh than rest of India.
The doctors prescribe drug treatment for months together to the TB patients, however TB recurs leading to death and suffering. It was not clear as to how the bacteria of TB hide in the body from months of drug treatment.
Now a new study has reported that the dormant TB hide in bone marrow stem cells to escape from drug treatment. The finding that could help develop better therapy to target the dormant TB bacteria.
Dr. Bikul Das, who hails from Sualkuchi in Assam and engaged in doing research on stem cells in Stanford University California is known to RIWATCH and its' parent organization ICCS (International Center for Cultural Studies US) since long. When he was working as a Doctor in Bhutan, he speculated that, TB bacteria escapes the host immune defense and drug treatment by hiding inside bone marrow stem cells.
Dr. Das and his team at Stanford University, California and Forsyth Institute, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA had a thorough lab research and successfully recovered variable bacteria inside the CD271+ stem cells using mouse model of TB developed by Dr. Antonio Campos-Neto at Forsyth Institute. Dr. Das then approached RIWATCH to perform the clinical study in the Arunachal Pradesh/Bhutan area, where he is actively engaged in yearly free medical camps.
The RIWATCH decided to facilitate Dr. Das to study as to why the TB recurrence is higher in Arunachalee communities.
A local NGO founded by Dr. Das, the KaviKrishna Foundation provided the funding for the research materials.
The people of Idu-Mishmis suffering from this dreaded disease participated in the study actively. This effort led to identification of individuals who had TB, and successfully completed drug treatment.
From these individuals, the team isolated the CD271+ stem cells, and found evidence of dormant TB bacteria in those stem cells. These results supported Dr Das's laboratory and Dr Campos-Neto's animal study evidence that dormant TB hide in the CD271+ stem cells.
Briefly, the findings indicate that the dormant TB bacteria hijack a stem cell type known as mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). The TB bacteria hide inside the CD271 expressing MSCs, and these infected MSCs resides in the bone marrow niche, which is of low oxygen.
So, drugs and immune cells cannot reach the niche where MSCs resides in the bone marrow. This helps dormant TB bacteria to escape the attack from immune cells and drugs. This could be the reason why it is so difficult to eradicate TB from human host.
The study details and the contribution of Idu-Mishmis of Arunachal Pradesh and RIWATCH in accomplishing the study has been duly acknowledged in a research paper published in a reputed journal 'Science Translational Medicine' on 30 January 2013.