Strong anti-Epstein Barr virus (EBV) or cytomegalovirus (CMV) cellular immune responses predict survival and a favourable response to anti-tuberculosis therapy

Int J Infect Dis. 2017 Mar;56:136-139. doi: 10.1016/j.ijid.2017.01.022. Epub 2017 Feb 11.


Background: Intact immune responses to cytomegalovirus (CMV) and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) represent a biologically and clinically relevant correlate of 'immunological fitness' in humans. However, there is a lack of knowledge concerning anti-EBV or anti-CMV responses in patients with pulmonary tuberculosis (TB), in whom aberrant immune responses may promote progression of clinical disease.

Methods: Venous blood samples were obtained at the time of (sputum smear positive) pulmonary TB diagnosis. A whole blood assay was performed by exposing PBMCs (peripheral blood mononuclear cells) to a panel of infectious antigens, including CMV, EBV and mycobacterial proteins. Cell culture supernatants were collected after seven days and interferon gamma (IFN-γ) was measured using a sandwich ELISA. Patients received standard first line anti-tuberculosis rifampicin (R)/isoniazid (H)/ethambutol (E)/pyrazinamide (Z) for two months followed by RH for four months.

Results: PBMCs from cured patients (after treatment completion) exhibited significantly stronger IFN-γ responses to CMV (p=0.035), EBV (p=0.006) or Mycobacterium tuberculosis ESAT-6 (p=0.043) at the time of diagnosis as compared to patients who succumbed to TB during treatment. IFN-γ responses to other viral (H5N1, HSV-1) as well as other mycobacterial (Ag85A, Rv2958c, Rv0447c) antigens were not found to be significantly different among patients who were cured or those who succumbed to TB.

Conclusions: Increased cellular immune responses to CMV and EBV antigens at the time of diagnosis of pulmonary tuberculosis are associated with increased survival after a standard six months anti-TB therapy. CVM and EBV antigens may represent "intrinsic markers for immune fitness" and guide improved TB therapies including host-directed therapies.

Keywords: CMV; EBV; IFN-γ; TB therapy,; cellular immune response; pulmonary tuberculosis; survival.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antitubercular Agents / pharmacology
  • Antitubercular Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cytomegalovirus / immunology*
  • Female
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular / immunology*
  • Male
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Tuberculosis Vaccines / immunology
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / drug therapy*
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / immunology*
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / mortality


  • Antitubercular Agents
  • Tuberculosis Vaccines