Determining the Gene Expression of Latent BCG in infected Caenorhabditis elegans

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently reported that approximately one-third of the world’s population is thought to be infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis.  At least half of those infected individuals are infected with drug/multi-drug resistant strains. A major setback in researching tuberculosis is the limited options for in vivo experimenting. This project focuses on evaluating tuberculosis infection in the nematode worm, Caenorhabditis elegans, to try to determine if the worm can be used as a new model to study the disease.

The title of this project is “Determining the Gene Expression of Latent BCG in infected Caenorhabditis elegans.”  The worm C. elegans has an immune system in which is similar to that of humans. Along with attempting to prove that this worm is an ideal model for studying TB, the purpose of this project is to determine the gene expression of latent BCG in vivo. More specifically, we hope to pin point certain genes which are upregulated. From there, we may be able to identify the upregulated genes as the genes that force BCG into dormancy.

Through this project I expect to better understand the gene expression in latent BCG in comparison to the gene expression in active BCG.  Through this understanding, I hope to be able to isolate specific genes and correlate them to the latency phase. This sort of research does not have many research articles to base experiments off of, however, my research mentors and I were able to create a food source that both the BCG and C. elegans are able to grow on. From there we will allow C. elegans to feed on BCG for a week. In order to ensure that the bacteria infected the worm, we will be utilizing fluorescent BCG. This will give us a view of where the bacteria are in the worm. We will then lyse open the worms and extract the BCG. We will finally run an RNA sequence test on the bacteria to determine the genes in which are upregulated.