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Gene profiles may predict TB prognosis

Information could be used to guide treatment

1:18pm, August 18, 2010

Thanks to molecular profiling, scientists now have a better idea about how a mass killer selects its victims. And the new analysis suggests that the killer, TB, may use a different murder weapon than researchers previously believed.

Mycobacterium tuberculosis infects one-third of people worldwide. But only about 10 percent of people infected will actually get sick with a debilitating lung disease. Until now, scientists had no way to predict who would become ill.

Now, an international consortium of researchers has compiled profiles of genetic activity in the blood of people with dormant TB infections, people with active infections, and healthy people. Those profiles show how the immune system deals with tuberculosis and point to some surprising culprits responsible for awakening a slumbering infection. Such profiles may help predict who will succumb to TB, the researchers report in the Aug. 19 Nature.

“This is literally the way to tell wh

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