Oregon Tuberculosis Research Laboratories

It has been known since the late 1800's that Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) causes Tuberculosis (TB). Additionally, curative regimens for this disease have been available for more than fifty years. In spite of these advances, TB remains a leading cause of infectious disease morbidity and worldwide, causing an estimated 8 million deaths annually. Why, then, has this pathogen been so difficult to eradicate? The answer likely rests in the mechanisms by which Mtb has evolved to co-exist with its human host. 

Unlike most bacteria, Mtb is able to hide inside human cells, sometimes for extended periods of time. Furthermore, it is commonly believed that nearly a third of the world's population has been exposed to Mtb, and yet very few of these go on to get sick. The Oregon TB Research Laboratories (OTBRL) represent a consortium of investigators seeking to understand the mechanisms by which Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) and the human host have co-evolved, and seeks to answer many of the questions underlying this relationship that we believe will ultimately lead to improved diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines. Examples of these questions include:

  1. Among those exposed to Mtb, who is really infected?
  2. Among those who are infected, who is likely to develop disease?
  3. How does Mtb survive inside of cells?
  4. Among children exposed to Mtb, why are they more likely to become ill?
  5. How does the immune system find those cells containing Mtb?