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Revista médica de Chile

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CABELLO C, Felipe. Tuberculosis: steady dynamics between past and present to imagine the future. Rev. méd. Chile [online]. 2011, vol.139, n.7, pp.829-832. ISSN 0034-9887.

Progress in understanding the biological processes that allow Mycobacterium tuberculosis to be a successful parasite have accelerated in the last twenty years. This progress has been stimulated by the return of tuberculosis (TB) as an important disease in industrialized countries, by its increase in emergent nations in the tail of population increases and poverty and by the spread of multiple drug resistant (MDR) and extensively drug resistant (XDR) M. tuberculosis as a result of treatment failures. Progress on M. tuberculosis biology has also been fueled by advances in microbiology and molecular biology, including molecular genetics, genomics, proteomics and in vitro and in vivo models of infection. The study of latency or dormancy, a phenomenon central to understanding the persistence of M. tuberculosis and the development of TB in individuals, its spread in human populations and the emergence of antibiotic-resistant/tolerant organisms, has been preferred targets for investigators in this area. In this manner, factors that trigger M. tuberculosis latency (e. g, hypoxia, nutrient starvation, NO exposure) have been characterized and the metabolic shifts to host lipid utilization, tolerance to antimicrobials and resistance to host immune mechanisms involved in latency have been determined. Similarly, genetic changes and the resulting antimicrobial mechanisms mediating the MDR and XDR states have been characterized and potential new vaccines that avoid reactivation from latency and infection are being developed. Despite this progress, and given the fact that effective anti tuberculosis therapy was developed and first introduced clinically at the end of the 1940s, there are now more cases of latent and active TB worldwide than ever before. This reinforces the concept of TB as a bacterial disease with strong social and economical! determinants which are presently stimulating increased transmission in many human groups, undermining diagnostics, treatment and prevention. It suggests that in a scenario of global economical crisis the struggle against TB will be weakened, unless efforts are included to alleviate poverty, decrease economic inequality, improve public health and allow democracy and political organization.

Keywords : Drug resistance; microbial; Genetic variation; Latent tuberculosis.

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