Recent studies have uncovered new mechanisms by which the human immune system attempts to control infection and how pathogens elude these mechanisms. Mycobacterial infections are prime examples of chronic battle fields between host and pathogens. The study of tuberculosis and related mycobacterial infectious diseases such as leprosy have greatly aided in deciphering mechanisms of immune mediated protection and pathology in humans. Here we review recent insights into the role of newly discovered T cell subsets including Th17, Tregs and nonclassically restricted T cells in adaptive immunity to mycobacteria. The role of newly discovered innate immune mechanisms in tuberculosis and leprosy along with recent results from 'unbiased' genome-wide and functional genetic approaches, are deciphering critical host pathways in human infectious disease.
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