Objectives: Controversial results were reported on the role of polyfunctional T-cells in tuberculosis (TB). Our aim was to simultaneously characterize the Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb)-specific immune response as cytokine production and memory phenotype by flow cytometry after in vitro stimulation with region of difference 1 ("RD1") recombinant proteins (ESAT-6 and CFP-10) in patients at different TB stage in a low TB endemic country. To assess the specificity of these findings, we evaluated the response to cytomegalovirus (CMV), an unrelated antigen.
Methods: We enrolled subjects with active TB, cured TB, latent TB infection (LTBI). Cytokine and phenotype profiles of T-cells from whole blood stimulated with "RD1" proteins and CMV were characterized by multi-parametric flow cytometry.
Results: Bifunctional IFNγ(+) TNFα(+) CD4(+) T-cells and effector memory phenotype significantly associated with active TB compared to the LTBI group (p = 0.008, at least p ≤ 0.009 respectively) whereas "RD1"-T-cell response in cured TB and LTBI was characterized by a central memory phenotype (at least p ≤ 0.013 and p ≤ 0.004 respectively vs active TB). In contrast, response to CMV antigen was not associated with a TB-specific status.
Conclusion: We identified qualitative associations between Mtb-specific T-cell and TB status in terms of functional capacity and memory status. These immune correlates may be helpful to trace natural history of TB.
Copyright © 2013 The British Infection Association. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.