Leopold Tientcheu Djomkam
Project Title: Interrogating Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex host immune responses to inform host-directed therapeutics development in West Africa
Host Organisation: MRC Unit The Gambia at LSHTM, The Gambia
In West Africa half of all Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by a type of bacteria called “M. africanum”, which is different from the commonly known M. tuberculosis worldwide. Our previous studies in The Gambia have shown that patients who developed disease from M. africanum still look sick after completing treatment compared to those who had TB from the well-known M. tuberculosis. This result implies that M. africanum may need additional treatment support to fully recover after treatment.
However, TB treatment requires 6 months minimum in general and is the same for both patients groups. One promising strategy to reduce this long treatment is using drugs that target the patients' immunity rather than their bacteria, which sometimes develop resistance. These modulators stimulate the immunity of patients such that they can clear the bacteria faster when taking antibiotics. My research aims to exploit the differences in the response to this two bacteria M. africanum and M. tuberculosis in well-known Gambian patients in order to identify new targets for immunomodulators in this population. If successfully identified, drugs will be made against these targets to shorten the length of treatment in West African countries, which have the similar bacteria found in The Gambia. A shorter treatment will improve the lives of patients who return to work quicker. Since this approach accounts for regional diversity, it can be applied in other locations and the results compared, thus adding to the toolbox to achieve the elimination of TB as a global health threat by 2050.