Mycobacterium africanum elicits an attenuated T cell response to early secreted antigenic target, 6 kDa, in patients with tuberculosis and their household contacts

J Infect Dis. 2006 May 1;193(9):1279-86. doi: 10.1086/502977. Epub 2006 Mar 31.


Background: Mycobacterium africanum, a member of the M. tuberculosis complex that is infrequently found outside of western Africa, is the cause of up to half of the tuberculosis cases there.

Methods: We genotyped mycobacterial isolates obtained from a study of patients with tuberculosis and their household contacts and compared T cell responses and tuberculin skin test results by infecting genotype.

Results: The T cell response to early secreted antigenic target, 6 kDa (ESAT-6), was attenuated in patients with tuberculosis (odds ratio [OR], 0.41 [95% confidence interval {CI}, 0.19-0.89]; P = .024) and household contacts (OR, 0.56 [95% CI, 0.38-0.83]; P = .004) infected with M. africanum, compared with the response in those infected with M. tuberculosis. In these same groups, responses to culture filtrate protein, 10 kDa (CFP-10), were nonsignificantly attenuated (P = .22 and P = .16, respectively), as were tuberculin skin test results (P = .30 and P = .46, respectively). Sequencing of region of difference 1 of M. africanum revealed that Rv3879c is a pseudogene in M. africanum; however, this finding does not provide an obvious mechanism for the attenuated ESAT-6 response.

Conclusions: This is the first evidence, to our knowledge, that strain differences affect interferon- gamma -based T cell responses. Our findings highlight the need to test new diagnostic candidates against different strains of mycobacteria. Integrating additional immunologic and genomic comparisons of M. tuberculosis and M. africanum into further studies may provide fundamental insights into the interactions between humans and mycobacteria.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antigens, Bacterial / immunology*
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disease Transmission, Infectious*
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Interferon-gamma / immunology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mycobacterium / genetics*
  • Mycobacterium / isolation & purification
  • Mycobacterium / pathogenicity*
  • Pseudogenes
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Tuberculin Test
  • Tuberculosis / immunology*
  • Tuberculosis / microbiology
  • Tuberculosis / transmission*
  • Virulence / genetics


  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • ESAT-6 protein, Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • Interferon-gamma