Targeting Autophagy as a Strategy for Developing New Vaccines and Host-Directed Therapeutics Against Mycobacteria

Emily Strong, Sunhee Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Mycobacterial disease is an immense burden worldwide. This disease group includes tuberculosis, leprosy (Hansen’s disease), Buruli Ulcer, and non-tuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) disease. The burden of NTM disease, both pulmonary and ulcerative, is drastically escalating globally, especially in developed countries such as America and Australia. Mycobacteria’s ability to inhibit or evade the host immune system has contributed significantly to its continued prevalence. Pre-clinical studies have highlighted promising candidates that enhance endogenous pathways and/or limit destructive host responses. Autophagy is a cell-autonomous host defense mechanism by which intracytoplasmic cargos can be delivered and then destroyed in lysosomes. Previous studies have reported that autophagy-activating agents, small molecules, and autophagy-activating vaccines may be beneficial in restricting intracellular mycobacterial infection, even with multidrug-resistant strains. This review will examine how mycobacteria evade autophagy and discusses how autophagy could be exploited to design novel TB treatment strategies, such as host-directed therapeutics and vaccines, against Mycobacterium tuberculosis and NTMs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number614313
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
StatePublished - Jan 14 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • autophagy
  • host-directed therapies
  • host–microbe interactions
  • mycobacteria
  • non-tuberculous mycobacteria
  • vaccines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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