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Tuberculosis (TB) is a serious infectious disease that affects mainly the lungs, and other parts of the body. 1,536 new cases were reported in Singapore last year.

Neutrophils, a type of white blood cell, are produced in a person’s body and contain enzymes which destroy the TB bacteria. Unfortunately, these cells also destroy lung tissues in the process.

Dr Catherine Ong, who is an Assistant Professor from NUS Medicine’s Department of Medicine and Consultant at NUH’s Division of Infectious Diseases, and her team found that in a low-oxygen environment, the production and lifespan of these destructive enzymes increased. This will result in more damage to the lungs.

"It's a vicious circle," said Dr Ong. If left untreated, the consequences of active TB infections can be dire. "For example, a patient could have holes in their lung or even have the whole lung destroyed as a result of the disease," she said.

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