Neutrophils in tuberculosis: friend or foe?

Trends Immunol. 2012 Jan;33(1):14-25. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2011 Nov 15.


Neutrophils are rapidly recruited to sites of mycobacterial infection, where they phagocytose bacilli. Whether neutrophils can kill mycobacteria in vivo probably depends on the tissue microenvironment, stage of infection, individual host, and infecting organism. The interaction of neutrophils with macrophages, as well as the downstream effects on T cell activity, could result in a range of outcomes from early clearance of infection to dissemination of viable bacteria together with an attenuated acquired immune response. In established disease, neutrophils accumulate in situations of high pathogen load or immunological dysfunction, and are likely to contribute to pathology. These activities may have clinical importance in terms of new treatments, targeted interventions and vaccine strategies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Mycobacterium / immunology
  • Neutrophils / immunology*
  • Tuberculosis / immunology*
  • Tuberculosis / microbiology