Relève étoile Jacques-Genest 
August 2018

Eva Kaufmann

Postdoctoral fellow in Medicine
McGill University

Award-winning publication: BCG Educates Hematopoietic Stem Cells to Generate Protective Innate Immunity against Tuberculosis

Published in: Cell


Every 21 seconds, someone dies of tuberculosis. Despite screening initiatives and improved treatment protocols, Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) remains one of the deadliest human pathogens. Discovered in 1921, BCG is still the only tuberculosis vaccine. But it does not provide protection against severe forms of childhood tuberculosis. There is therefore an urgent need to develop a more effective vaccine against the most prevalent form of the disease: adult pulmonary tuberculosis. Until now, generating a repertory of T cells specific to Mtb was considered a determining factor in the fight against tuberculosis but the main role of T cells is to limit bacterial spread and not eliminate infection in the lungs. For that reason, all potential vaccines that have focused on T cell generation have led to disappointing results. Relying on a mouse model, Eva Kaufmann and her coauthors found that when BCG is administered in a way that enables access to bone marrow, it can reprogram the hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). Once in the marrow, BCG can lead the HSCs to produce monocytes and macrophages, which constitute the first line of defence against the disease. The findings are a promising starting point to develop a new vaccine against tuberculosis.