An international team of researchers, led by Stephan Schwander, MD, PhD, director of the Center for Global Public Health at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-School of Public Health (UMDNJ-SPH), has received a $2.96 million grant to conduct a "real-world" study on the impact of urban air pollution on the human immune system's ability to resist Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes tuberculosis (TB). The grant has been awarded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
"Air pollution from rapid industrial growth and traffic collide with high levels of TB in many parts of the world," said Dr. Schwander, who is also the interim chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at UMDNJ-SPH. "Our study will be the first to examine the effect of ambient urban air pollution on the human lung immune system that controls development of TB among individuals exposed to that environment."
An earlier study led by Dr. Schwander identified a link between diesel exhaust particles - a common component of urban air pollution - and changes in the immune response that may increase the likelihood of Mycobacterium tuberculosis disease. Conducted in a laboratory environment, that study showed how diesel exhaust particles suppress the function of immune cells, which, in turn, may cause exposed individuals to be less able to fight off Mycobacterium tuberculosis infections. The newly funded study will take the next step by examining whether those laboratory results can be confirmed in a much larger study conducted in a real-world environment.