Dietary fats could help the body fight against tuberculosis, according to a team of Portuguese and German researchers.
The team found that certain fatty acids, such as arachidonic acid, could help the body's defence system fight bacteria, including Mycobacterium tuberculosis, responsible for the disease that kills around 2 million people each year.
However omega-3 fats, found in oily fish and widely touted for their heart health effects, behaved differently and slightly stimulated pathogen growth, reported the researchers.
The study, published in the recent issue of Nature Cell Biology, assessed the action of different lipids on macrophages' ability to destroy bacteria in laboratory tests.
They concluded that lipids can be involved in "both stimulatory and inhibitory signalling networks in the phagosomal membrane".
While they could not recommend eating certain fats to prevent the disease, the scientists suggested that further work should be carried out to find out more about the properties of lipids. Some classes of lipids could be more effective when used in conjunction with antibiotics, they write.