The role of Th2 cytokines and Th2-associated chemokines in tuberculosis (TB) remains controversial, though in Mexico a polymorphism causing increased production of CCL2 is a risk factor. We studied levels of the Th2-associated chemokines CCL2 and CCL18, circulating soluble IL-4 receptors (sIL-4R), IL-4 and the inhibitory splice variant of IL-4 (IL-4δ2) in a cohort of patients with pulmonary TB and their healthy contacts. These were followed for 2 years during which time 10 contacts developed pulmonary TB. Results were compared with measurements made in renal and meningeal TB, and in disease controls with bacterial pneumonias or Dengue fever that have large Th2 components. In these disease controls both chemokines were significantly raised. They were also very significantly raised in all forms of TB, irrespective of age or disease site. Levels of CCL18 were raised least in meningeal TB, and most in pulmonary patients with long histories, when levels were similar to those in disease controls. Levels of CCL2, although also raised in all three forms of TB, were negatively correlated with CCL18. We found that levels of sIL-4R were strikingly reduced in all forms of TB, particularly meningeal. Contacts who progressed could not be distinguished from contacts who remained healthy at 2 years in terms of IL-4, sIL-4R, CCL2 or CCL18. However contacts had raised expression of IL-4δ2 as previously found. These results indicate vigorous and previously unrecorded activity within the Th2 axis, and further investigation is warranted.
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