Background and objectives: In the last decade, autosomal recessive IL-12Rβ1 deficiency has been diagnosed in four children with severe tuberculosis from three unrelated families from Morocco, Spain, and Turkey, providing proof-of-principle that tuberculosis in otherwise healthy children may result from single-gene inborn errors of immunity. We aimed to estimate the fraction of children developing severe tuberculosis due to IL-12Rβ1 deficiency in areas endemic for tuberculosis and where parental consanguinity is common.
Methods and principal findings: We searched for IL12RB1 mutations in a series of 50 children from Iran, Morocco, and Turkey. All children had established severe pulmonary and/or disseminated tuberculosis requiring hospitalization and were otherwise normally resistant to weakly virulent BCG vaccines and environmental mycobacteria. In one child from Iran and another from Morocco, homozygosity for loss-of-function IL12RB1 alleles was documented, resulting in complete IL-12Rβ1 deficiency. Despite the small sample studied, our findings suggest that IL-12Rβ1 deficiency is not a very rare cause of pediatric tuberculosis in these countries, where it should be considered in selected children with severe disease.
Significance: This finding may have important medical implications, as recombinant IFN-γ is an effective treatment for mycobacterial infections in IL-12Rβ1-deficient patients. It also provides additional support for the view that severe tuberculosis in childhood may result from a collection of single-gene inborn errors of immunity.