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Review
. 2003;83(1-3):98-106.
doi: 10.1016/s1472-9792(02)00054-9.

Human Immunity to M. Tuberculosis: T Cell Subsets and Antigen Processing

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Review

Human Immunity to M. Tuberculosis: T Cell Subsets and Antigen Processing

W H Boom et al. Tuberculosis (Edinb). .

Abstract

A hallmark of M. tuberculosis infection is the ability of most (90-95%) healthy adults to control infection through acquired immunity, in which antigen specific T cells and macrophages arrest growth of M. tuberculosis bacilli and maintain control over persistent bacilli. In addition to CD4+ T cells, other T cell subsets such as, gammadelta, CD8+ and CD1-restricted T cells have roles in the immune response to M. tuberculosis. A diverse T cell response allows the host to recognize a wider range of mycobacterial antigens presented by different families of antigen-presenting molecules, and thus greater ability to detect the pathogen. Macrophages are key antigen presenting cells for T cells, and M. tuberculosis survives and persists in this central immune cell. This is likely an important factor in generating this T cell diversity. Furthermore, the slow growth and chronic nature of M. tuberculosis infection results in prolonged exposure to antigens, and hence further T cell sensitization. The effector mechanisms used by T cells to control M. tuberculosis are poorly understood. To survive in macrophages, M. tuberculosis has evolved mechanisms to block immune responses. These include modulation of phagosomes, neutralization of macrophage effector molecules, stimulating the secretion of inhibitory cytokines, and interfering with processing of antigens for T cells. The relative importance of these blocking mechanisms likely depends on the stage of M. tuberculosis infection: primary infection, persistence, reactivation or active tuberculosis. The balance of the host-pathogen interaction in M. tuberculosis infection is determined by the interaction of T cells and infected macrophages. The outcome of this interaction results either in control of M. tuberculosis infection or active disease. A better understanding of this interaction will result in improved approaches to treatment and prevention of tuberculosis.

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