For Better or for Worse: The Immune Response Against Mycobacterium Tuberculosis Balances Pathology and Protection

Immunol Rev. 2011 Mar;240(1):235-51. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-065X.2010.00994.x.


Tuberculosis (TB) is a complex disease, and the success of the bacterium as an intracellular pathogen is the outcome of its close and longstanding coevolution with the mammalian host. The dialogue between Mycobacterium tuberculosis and the host is becoming understandable at the molecular, cellular, and tissue level. This has led to the elucidation of the (i) interaction between pattern recognition receptors and pathogen-associated molecular patterns, (ii) cross-talk between immune cells, and (iii) mechanisms underlying granuloma development. Disease as an eventual but not a necessary consequence of infection results from a sensitive balance between protective immunity and destructive pathology. Early events, governed largely by conserved mechanisms of host recognition, impact not only on type and course of adaptive immunity but also on lung parenchymal function. New interpretations of how these responses shape the lung environment and direct granuloma development emphasize that the disease results from pathologic consequences of non-resolving inflammation. We review recent advances in TB research within the context of this ambitious view of TB.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution*
  • Humans
  • Immune Evasion*
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / immunology*
  • Tuberculosis / immunology*
  • Tuberculosis / pathology*