Understanding the role of mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells in long-term resistance to Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) infection in highly exposed individuals


  • Dr Muki Shey

    University of Cape Town

Project summary

This project aims to determine whether protection from the bacteria that cause tuberculosis (TB) in healthcare workers (HCWs) who are constantly exposed to people with TB is linked to a subset of immune cells called mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells. These MAIT cells produce molecules that can prevent the TB bacteria from residing in the lungs and causing infection.

HCWs will be tested to check whether they already have the infection. MAIT cells in blood and lungs from people who have or do not have the infection will be cultured with TB bacteria in the laboratory to check whether their responses are different and whether their MAIT cells can stop or slow down bacterial growth. Differences in genetic make-up between the two groups will also be evaluated to check whether there are differences associated with protection from TB.

This knowledge can help in making new vaccines to prevent the spread of infection.

This grant was awarded under the scheme's previous name of Intermediate Fellowships in Public Health and Tropical Medicine.