Background: The purpose of this study was to further characterize the immune response to Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) antigens, in order to provide new insight into host-pathogen interactions in tuberculosis (TB), and to offer tools for a more accurate diagnosis of the different stages of TB.
Methods: T-cell responses to Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG), purified protein derivative (PPD), early secretory antigenic target-6 (ESAT-6) protein and culture filtrate protein-10 kDa (CFP-10) were measured in terms of interferon (IFN)-gamma and interleukin (IL)-2 release, using a novel flow cytometric cell-secreting cytokine detection technique. The study was conducted on peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) obtained from active TB patients, latently TB infected individuals, and healthy donors. IL-10 and IL-17 were also measured to test their possible role as indicators of disease activity.
Results: We confirmed that the enumeration of IFN-gamma releasing cells upon Mtb-specific stimulation is sufficient to identify TB patients and that CD8+ T cells concur to IFN-gamma secretion. IL-2 secreting cells were more frequently observed in latent TB infected individuals compared to active TB patients, suggesting that measurement of cells secreting this cytokine could be a marker of disease stage. No discriminating role was associated to IL-10 and IL-17 release in TB patients.
Conclusion: Our data indicate that the flow cytometric cytokine-secreting cell detection technique may be envisaged as an additional tool for TB diagnosis allowing the analysis of the immune response to M. tuberculosis-related antigens in the different stages of TB.