Immune cells from old mouse lungs fought tuberculosis bacteria as effectively as cells from young mice after lung inflammation was reduced by ibuprofen, researchers from Ohio State University found.
    
The ibuprofen had no effect on the immune response to TB in young mice, the study found.
    
"Very few researchers have linked inflammation to infectious disease in old age, even though TB in particular will drive that inflammation even further," said Joanne Turner, associate professor of microbial infection and immunity at Ohio State and senior author of the study.
    
In the study, the researchers compared lung cells from old and young mice and found that in the old mice, genes that make three classic pro-inflammatory proteins, called cytokines, were more active in the lungs of old mice.
    
The cytokines are interleukin-1 (IL-1), interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a).
    
In addition, immune system cells called macrophages in the lungs from old mice were in an advanced state of readiness to fight an infection a status that signals inflammation. Macrophages in young mouse lungs were in a normal, resting state.
    
In test tubes, the scientists exposed mouse lung macrophages to TB bacteria. The macrophages from old mouse lungs were quicker to absorb the bacteria than were immune cells from young mice, but that initial robust immune response from the cells of old mice could not be sustained.
    
The researchers gave old and young mice ibuprofen in their food for two weeks and then examined their lung cells.
    
After this diet modification, several pro-inflammatory cytokines in the lungs of old mice had been reduced to levels identical to those in the lungs of young mice, and the macrophages in old mouse lungs were no longer in a primed state.
    
"Essentially, ibuprofen made the lungs of old mice look young. Putting young mice on ibuprofen had no effect because they had no lung inflammation, which implies the ibuprofen reduced the inflammation and changed the immune response in the old mice," Turner said.
    
"It might be that ibuprofen works on specific pathways to lower inflammation, and that might help with control of TB," she said.
    
Though this line of work might someday support the use of ibuprofen as an adjunct therapy for elderly people with TB, Turner emphasised that she and colleagues are not recommending use of the drug for the purposes of lowering inflammation.
    
The research is published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology.

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