Electron microscope photo of tuberculosis bacteria

Tuberculosis is the second deadliest infectious disease after HIV/AIDS. One-third of the world’s population is infected. Even more troubling, drug-resistant strains of the bacterium causing this contagious disease are on the rise and we have no treatment for some of those cases—raising a concern that we will be not able to control the spread of disease. TB is also a leading cause of death among people with HIV. The need for smarter and faster treatments is urgent, yet for more than 50 years our best answer has been an arduous course of multiple antibiotics, taken for up to two years—which often still falls short of curing the infection.

An interdisciplinary team of biomedical scientists and engineers at the Tufts Center for Tuberculosis Research offers new hope. They have struck on a revolutionary new technology that sees for the first time how this highly adaptive bacterium grows and thrives, revealing how TB resists treatment. Using single-cell experiments, mathematical models, and 3-D tissue models all developed at Tufts, our investigators are uncovering powerful survival strategies that keep this pathogen a step ahead of antibiotics. These findings could hold the answer to finally beating TB. They might also change how we identify treatment of other diseases such as HIV and cancer.


Innovations in TB Research at Tufts

  • Our focus on single-cell biology is a game-changing approach to TB that takes the guesswork out and promises targeted treatments of much greater precision and efficacy.
  • This approach is made possible by using new live-cell imaging techniques that track cell growth and changes over days and even weeks—an uncommon advantage in understanding variations among cells in their ability to tolerate antibiotics.
  • Our $3.5 million Level 3 biocontainment lab stands apart in its capacity to support an advanced live-cell microscopy system with microfluidics.
  • Tufts researchers are also collaborating across the university to create a novel 3-D model of lung tissue—a significant leap forward allowing us to study TB in a true, dynamic environment of the human lung.
  • To crack TB’s code, we are leveraging expertise and resources in microbiology,  biomedical engineering, and mathematics.

Read about our principal faculty in Tuberculosis.

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