Mycobacterium bovis is a bacterium responsible for causing bovine tuberculosis (bTB) infections in cows. This infection can also spread to other animals and has a significant impact to agriculture each year worldwide. The disease can be difficult to control, so learning more about exactly how the infection takes place could lead to improved management practices.
Researchers from the University College Dublin and the University of Edinburgh have collaborated in order to help improve resistance to bTB in cows. They have been able to map both active and inactive genes that are present in specialized lung immune cells that are the first line of defense against bTB. Using this information, the researchers were able to show that Mycobacterium bovis must infect these cells and modify their gene activity in order to infect cows.
The team were able to investigate all the chemical changes that took place within the chromosomes of the lung immune cells, known as alveolar macrophages, once they were infected. During infection the Mycobacterium bovis alter the gene activity of the macrophages, which in turn gives the bacteria a better chance of survival. Knowing which genes are impacted, and how, may allow cattle breeders to generate improved bTB resistance in future herds by ensuring the cattle have important genes to help fight infection.
Source: University of Edinburgh
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